Union pulls out of bank's card deal

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The Independent Online
THE BANK of Scotland continued to pay a price for its relationship with American evangelist Pat Robertson yesterday when a major trade union dropped multi-million pound plans to market the bank's credit card.

The Manufacturing Science and Finance (MSF) union said it could no longer remain associated with the scheme to offer the cards to 420,000 members following a public outcry over Mr Robertson's claim that Scotland was a "dark land" overrun by homosexuals.

The decision came despite the Bank of Scotland's announcement last week that it was severing its links with the right-wing preacher, a move which is believed to have cost the bank about pounds 3m in compensation.

Bank officials had hoped that abandoning the deal would end the controversy, which has resulted in the closure of over 500 accounts. But the MSF decision will cast doubt on whether the bank will be able to retain a lucrative affinity card deal with the Trades Union Congress, due for renewal in mid-2000. The TUC had said that the Robertson connection would kill that deal and has yet to change its mind.

John Drummond, managing director of business ethics consultancy Integrity Works, said the MSF decision is highly significant. "We live in a transparent world in which mistakes are both noticed and remembered, which means every perceived lapse of ethics has its legacy long after it has ceased to be topical."

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the MSF said: "Our basic philosophy as a union is to promote tolerance in society. We cannot remain associated with a financial institution that appears to take this principle so lightly. We will be seeking an alternative service for our members."

The bank recently wrote to the union explaining its planned venture with Mr Robertson as a way of seeking innovative ways of expanding its market. The letter stated: "There has been a highly selective and very biased reporting of some comments culled from those which Dr Robertson has made at various times - apparently derived from the Internet sites of his American political opponents." Only after the letter was written did the bank sever the connection.

The MSF is not the only organisation that will not easily forgive the bank.

Body Positive, the Strathclyde-based gay organisation, has moved its account to another bank. A spokesman said: "We don't believe the bank has changed its attitude and it has only been forced to back down because Robertson insulted the whole of Scotland. We have lost trust and faith in them."

Part of the problem for the Bank of Scotland is that, although it has abandoned its telephone banking deal with Mr Robertson, it has expressed no regrets at what happened.

A terse statement at the weekend announcing it was abandoning the deal merely refers to "changed external circumstances made the proposed venture between Robertson Financial Services and the Bank of Scotland unfeasible".

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