Crikey has long felt Frank Cicutto should be sacked as CEO of the NAB and his silly comments about the Scottish economy provide further evidence of this.

Hapless NAB chief executive Frank Cicutto may have felt a little of that fear as a tartan army of politicians, business and union leaders last week attacked his claim that the Scottish economy has been in recession for 200 years and investment opportunities were better south of the border in Yorkshire.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, enterprise minister, Wendy Alexander, told the Scottish Trades Union Congress that “the gnome of Melbourne” should stop mixing it, get with it and start making it in the new Scotland, where the NAB owns the third largest bank, Clydesdale.

“Rather than saying Scotland doesn’t give a fourex, I thought I would start by setting the record straight,” she said, and proceeded to quote a string of economic statistics which, she claimed, proved that the Scottish economy was thriving.

Manufacturing had grown by 50 per cent over the last seven years better than England’s and what she described as “the gnome’s own sector”, financial services, had grown by 40 per cent, compared with only 30 per cent in England.

The Scottish Federation of Small Businesses said Cicutto’s comments were “frankly insulting” and would not help Clydesdale Bank’s position in the market place.

Cicutto tried to minimise the damage by expressing regret for the remarks he made at an analyst briefing and claiming that the bank’s recent £70 million ($200 million) investment in a new customer contact centre in Kilmarnock would create 500 jobs in 2006.

“I know Scotland well and am proud to have been chief executive of Clydesdale Bank,” he said.

“I have the highest regard for the country and its people and I am sorry if my attempts at a light-hearted comment caused offence.”

Not satisfied by this, the UK’s main banking union, Unifi, is calling on Cicutto to resign for the second time in a month.

In a radio interview, deputy general secretary, Sandy Boyle, said the comments were “astonishing”.

When NAB announced plans earlier this month to reduce its European workforce by 500, Unifi said management mistakes, such as $4 billion of losses on the HomeSide investment, were to blame for the proposed job cuts and called for Cicutto’s resignation.

Stuart Mackenzie can be reached at [email protected]

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