Dishonour will mean little to a man who chose friends carefully

James Cusick explains Fred Goodwin's relationship with Edinburgh's elite

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Indy Politics

In the close company of Rubens, Botticelli, Van Dyck and Tiepolo, there is a coveted long table brought out for the National Galleries of Scotland's annual patrons' dinner. This is Edinburgh society's "made it" spot; the place where one's enduring membership of Scottish society is etched like the signature on an Old Master. So what are plain old Mr Fred Goodwin's chances of being invited to the table any time soon? One establishment figure took a second to guess: "Slim to non-existent, I'd say."

No longer a knight of the realm, and still spending a large part of his social life in Edinburgh at his home in the affluent Marchmont area, there is a misconception the former wizard of global banking has been left holding a devalued wallet of social credentials. Not true. In his chosen circles, the knighthood never mattered.

He may have brought RBS to its knees, but Mr Goodwin isn't begging for understanding and forgiveness from the upper echelons of Edinburgh society. "He spends a lot of time in France at his home in Cannes, but he hasn't left Edinburgh. He has no need to," said one source from within Edinburgh's financial circle.

Those who count the former knight as their friend have closed ranks. "He still plays golf with those he's always relied on and trusted. Nothing's changed in that respect," said someone who knew him shortly before his marriage hit severe trouble last year.

Sir Jackie Stewart, another good friend, backed up those who claimed the dishonour will hurt him, but wouldn't change much for him. He told The Independent: "I don't think it will make that much difference. Because he's a tough man and doesn't share much of his pain or discomfort with others. He still has the same group of friends – and they won't walk away from him. He chose them well. Some have made a lot of money in their lives, others not at all. But Fred isn't a social animal: never has been, never will be."

But what will hurt is another threat: the removal of an elite Scottish honour bestowed on Goodwin in 2008 by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The 229-year-old institute has decided it cannot ignore the Forfeiture Committee's decision and has scheduled a meeting to discuss Goodwin's fellowship.

One Edinburgh grandee said: "I think this could hurt him more than the removal of his knighthood. This is a unique honour, given by his peers. It recognises success and achievement. In Scotland that translate as respect."

Goodwin's friendship with the Morrison family, who run the leading RMJM architecture business, was tested after the collapse of RBS. Brought in as a brand ambassador, the negative reaction of some of the senior architects forced a rethink. Goodwin walked.

According to one of his former associates, Goodwin "is now very careful with his friends. The split with Joyce [his wife] last year left him with a divide he handles like a balance sheet. There's in, and out, but no possibles."

Outside this stratum, Edinburgh's establishment moves on, uninterrupted by someone who despite his wealth never really broke through the barrier of his humble origins in Paisley.

One banking executive admitted Goodwin had a reputation for being "cold"– a view at odds with Sir Jackie.

Not being a social animal meant the New Club at the east end of Princes Street, in existence since 1787, and almost a required personal listing for Scotland's senior judiciary and flexible nobility, was unnecessary for Goodwin. "As he was never New Club, he won't miss them, and they won't miss him," claimed one member.

The same goes for the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield. One member said: "I don't recall anyone ever proposing Fred Goodwin as a member." Despite the bonuses, RBS's sponsorship of the Open and their logo on the bags of the world's best professionals, Goodwin was perhaps still "too trade" for the Honourable Company.

In 2008 a private ambition was revealed when he was proposed as a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. But before any of the elite club got a chance to vote, a rumoured letter of objection appeared. Nothing more was said.

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