When I first started at Stirling University as a bright-eyed seventeen-year-old, I had to open a bank account to put my grant cheque in. The bank on campus was the Bank of Scotland, so I went there, like just about everybody else. Like all students, especially in the 70s, I was never out of the Students Union (the famous 'Grange') and ended up with an overdraft at the end of the year. I got a letter to come into the bank, where the manager took my cheque card and snapped it in two, to prevent me cashing any more cheques. I was overdrawn in the amount of £46! There were others whose overdrafts ran into three figures, £400 and £500; they, however, were allowed to keep spending.
The fact is, that when I first opened my account, I wasn't given a cheque card. When I asked for one, the manager demanded to know what my father did for a living. On discovering that he was just a common shipyard worker, he pretty much threatened me that I'd better not 'abuse his trust' and go over what I had in my account. Is it any wonder that I've never had anything to do with the BoS ever since? Even when getting a mortgage I refused to even consider them, even though they might have been cheaper. It was only in later years I discovered that such class snobbishness was the norm in the Bank of Scotland, from top to bottom. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting
If you want to find out more about Masterton's (allegedly) dodgy dealings, there is an abundance of investigation on Ian Fraser's website: http://www.ianfraser.org/. Here, we're more concerned about his links with that celebrated football owner and entrepreneur, David Murray.
It's hard to find any details of Masterton's background; all I can find out is that he came from Dunfermline, started at BoS in 1957 and was the bank's chief during the 1980s and 1990s. Oh, and he owned Dunfermline F.C.; more on that later. In the 1980s and 1990s, Edinburgh, where BoS's headquarters were, was a very cliquish place, where the old school tie meant everything. It might well still be, but my experiences were in the late 80s/early 90s. Although I was only on the Community Programme and then Employment Training, the job I was doing meant dealing with a lot of the heid-bummers in Edinburgh's education department, libraries service and even the social work department. Some of these characters were most unhappy about having to deal with scum like me; they wanted to deal with another individual, who had attended the Royal High School. Unfortunately, this particular young man was rarely available; he was usually to be found slumped over a table in Rose Street. Essentially, I discovered that whereas in Glasgow you're asked what school you went to for sectarian reasons, things were, and probably still are, different in Edinburgh. There, they want to know if you went to a fee-paying school. A few state schools are deemed acceptable: the Royal High is one, others include Boroughmuir and Broughton.
Which brings us to a man that attended Fettes, one of the dearer fee-paying schools in Edinburgh, and then Broughton; David Murray. The whole of Scotland seemed to be held in awe of Murray, with ne'er a word of criticism to be found anywhere. Of course, in Edinburgh, with his school tie and rugby-playing credentials, he was held in even more esteem. With his office on The Mound, Gavin Masterton no doubt hob-nobbed with the cream of Edinburgh society, including David Murray.
In the 80s and 90s the Bank of Scotland was the lender to most of Scottish football. Not all clubs, however, were treated equally.
In 1994 Celtic were almost consigned to oblivion, over a matter of £5.2m owed to the Bank of Scotland. Demands were made for an immediate payment of £1m; otherwise no Celtic cheques would be honoured. Fortunately, Fergus McCann came to the rescue. Even when the overdraft was paid off, the bank would only offer Celtic a secured loan of about £2m. McCann subsequently dumped the Bank of Scotland and Celtic have done business with the Co-Op Bank ever since.
This contrasted markedly with the treatment of Murray's Rangers. It's difficult to assess just how much actually went to Rangers, since Murray was constantly moving money about between his different companies. What is public knowledge is that when everything went pear-shaped, MIH, the holding company for Rangers and other companies, owed the Bank of Scotland, or HBOS as it became, the phenomenal amount of over £1bn! Even a tiny fraction of that runs to an eight-figure sum and I've seen estimates of Rangers' portion of this debt running into nine figures and maybe even not a baw-hair away from ten. This was all due to the largesse of Gavin Masterton.
It must be stressed that this had nothing to do with sectarianism. Edinburgh has its fair share of religious bigots but, among the elites, class trumps religion every time. (I experienced this myself. I noticed a distinct warming towards me when I mentioned attending St. Aloysius School. This soon evaporated when it was discovered that I meant St. Aloysius Primary in Springburn and not the prestigious St. Aloysius College.) I, personally, know of two chancers that have got administrative posts in Edinburgh charities, only to rob them blind. Even though one of them did time for defrauding Strathclyde Regional Council, they're still taken on because of the schools they attended. Gavin Masterton shared this class prejudice. David Murray could be given unlimited funds, whereas the Whites and Kellys, and Fergus McCann for that matter, were not in the same caste.
Masterton was not only involved in helping to bankroll Scottish football, and, more particularly, Rangers, he was also the owner of Dunfermline FC. There's a rather strange story concerning Dunfermline and Jimmy Calderwood. Calderwood let slip on 'Off The Ball' that it was actually David Murray that contacted him and recruited him for the Dunfermline job in 1999. (Read about it here.) Now, that's a strange one, eh? It becomes even more strange when you read further that there was a plan for Calderwood to go to Rangers but he was first to serve a stint at Dunfermline to find his feet back in Scotland (See here.) It looks as if Masterton's largesse towards Murray did not stop at handing out loans! And if this story is true then it puts Chris Sutton's accusation against Dunfermline, on the last day of the 2002-2003 season, in quite a different light!
Finally, when Lloyds TSB, who, by then owned HBOS, went tits-up it had to be bailed out by the Government, using tax-payers' money. Effectively, that meant that the tax payer was picking up the tab for the £1bn that Murray owed the bank. That amount, of course, includes all the money that went into Rangers. And Gregory Campbell and his ilk have got the nerve to accuse Celtic of benefitting from state aid!
All-in-all, Gavin Masterton deserves his place on this rogues' gallery of cheating bastards!
On a separate note. If you're looking for a Christmas present, why not consider one of my books? Just click on the 'My Books' icon over there on the right for more details.