A furious protest by victims of the Farepak collapse took place on Monday of this week outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) head office in Edinburgh as a champagne reception took place.
HBOS was targeted because, after it financed Farepak’s parent company European Home Retail, it grabbed £28 million from the ailing business and watched it go bust. Since then HBOS has put just £2 million into the fund for victims.
Aileen Nichol, who lost her savings, told Socialist Worker, “You couldn’t print what I think about bankers. It cost me £600 for them to have champagne.”
One group of protesters came from Whitburn, near Edinburgh – 19 people there lost £7,985. The group included pensioners and single parents.
Janice Thomson, the Farepak agent involved, explained that unlike HBOS, the agents felt guilty about what had happened. The attraction of Farepak was that it was a safe way of saving. “You cannot take out money and so there’s no temptation. You also avoid getting into debt,” she said.
Aileen Nicol put in £60 every month for ten months. “But they knew in the summer what was happening and said nothing,” she said. “They just kept taking our money. We want it back.”
Aileen’s family is probably typical. Her mum lost £300. She lost £600 and her sister lost £750. She has a three year old child. “How can you explain to a three year old what has happened?” Aileen’s children are older and are asking, “How could they get away with it?”
Rosemary Byrne, a Solidarity MSP, attended the picket. She said, “It’s a disgrace. HBOS have their money, but it’s the poor who suffer.
“Constituents have told me that Farepak was accepting their payments on the very Friday before they ceased trading. It knew what was about to happen. HBOS knew it too. But both said nothing. ”
The slogan of the protest was “HBOS Hand Back Our Savings”. Suzy Hall, one of the organisers, said, “They could afford to lose that money. It wouldn’t even dent their profits”.
Willie Black from the Amicus union’s regional committee told Socialist Worker that the union is backing the Unfairpak campaign. “If the unions get involved it means the Unfairpak campaign has the potential to carry on. It’s not just for Christmas,” he said.