Bank of Scotland apologises over TV preacher

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WHEN Bank of Scotland board members arrived yesterday for their annual meeting in Edinburgh, they expected to face gay protests over their recently abandoned deal with the right-wing TV evangelist, Pat Robertson. Instead, there was a lone Christian outside complaining that the deal had been ditched. Harry Mullen's billboard declared: "The Bank of Scotland, a set of moral cowards, succumbed to economic blackmail by sodomites and left-wing atheists."

However, the hundreds of shareholders who packed Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel, wanted an explanation of how their 300-year-old bank had set up a telephone banking operation with an American who thought Scotland was a "dark land" overrun by homosexuals.

"It was a momumental blunder," said Mr Jim Wilson, hurrying into the meeting.

Sir John Shaw, the deputy governor, tried to calm everyone down. It was "surprising and distressing" that the deal made anyone question the bank's commitment to equal opportunities.

He declared: "We recognise that the bank's involvement was a mistake as we concluded that there was a serious risk of damage to our existing core business arising from growing numbers of customers, especially in Scotland, expressing concern about the relationship."

He added: "Our judgment was wrong and for that the board apologises."

Not all were impressed. "It seems," said John Cruickshank, a retired academic, "the bank does not actually regret what it did. It said it regretted that people did not like what it had done."But Sir John did not respond, preferring to explain that details of Mr Robertson's pay-off (rumoured to be around pounds 3m) were a commercial secret and could not be revealed. There would be no resignations, no scapegoating. Had no-one suspected it would be a public relations disaster, asked one bemused shareholder. "The fact is that we didn't," said Sir John.

Minutes later he was elected the bank's new governor.