WE are only on day 19 of the new year, but already 2018 is shaping up to be another annus horribilis for crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland.

Chief executive Ross McEwan expressed hope in recent months that 2018 would be the year the state-backed lender put the last of its “legacy” issues behind it, and make its first annual profits in around a decade.

Instead, it has begun the year facing renewed criticism in Parliament for its treatment of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

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And it has faced tough questioning by MPs over the impact on communities from its latest, swingeing branch closures.

Allegations of mistreatment of SMEs by the bank’s controversial Global Restructuring Group (GRG), a turnaround unit ostensibly set up to support struggling firms after the financial crash, have been well documented in recent years, leading the City watchdog to commission a report into its operations.

Although the full report has yet to be published, the Financial Conduct Authority said the bank “accepted it did not meet the standard it set of itself, which impacted on how it treated some of its SME customers” after a summary was issued by the watchdog in November 2016.

At the time, the bank was cleared of the worst allegations made against it. But if bosses thought that would be the end of the matter, they would have been mistaken.

After an internal memo emanating from GRG, dating from 2009 and released on Wednesday, showed staff had been asked to “let customers hang themselves”, the bank faced furious condemnation yesterday from MPs for the way GRG handled small firms referred to it.

The fresh focus placed on GRG will surely inflict further damage on the bank’s already battered image.

But, amid claims the majority of the 12,000 SMEs placed into the unit were ultimately liquidated, there could well have been a human, and an economic, cost to its activities too.

This matter deserves the fullest possible scrutiny.