Stephen Hester
RBS boss Stephen Hester is coming under fire for his near £1m bonus (REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)

As politicians squabble and snipe over RBS boss Stephen Hester's near £1m bonus, there's a much bigger question hanging over the state-owned bank.

Hester's plump pay packet may be distasteful, immoral, or miserly depending on your viewpoint.

But a dispute over £1m in deferred RBS shares, which aren't exactly in high demand at the moment, serves as a distraction.

The real issue is if and when the taxpayers will get the £45bn we ploughed into the once doomed bank back.

There's a debate about if we should have bailed out RBS in the first place and, if we are serious about making a capitalist system that works, letting the markets crush the bank under its own stupidity and arrogance instead.

Others say the bailout was justified, because the knock-on effect would have been too catastrophic for our economy if this "too big to fail" bank did go belly up.

Let the history books draw their own conclusions because we must live in the current reality.

We did bail it out. We do now have capital tied up in the bank - and we must get it back.

It was never intended as an investment, but that doesn't mean we should accept a massive loss.

If we want a return on that money, we must accept that Hester's remuneration package is driven by the market.

As the old adage sort of goes: pay peanuts, get monkeys in bowler hats.

We are shareholders and should be demanding the best, at whatever cost necessary, so as to eventually see our precious money again.

What else can we do? Pay significantly less than the market rate?

This is not realistic or reasonable.

Hester's leadership has not yet seen a great spike in RBS's share price, after its dramatic plunge in 2008, but as RBS itself points out all but one of the bank's core businesses are in profit.

What's more the share price is now around 27.6p, up some way on its 9p low in 2009 early in Hester's leadership.

Let's take a long-term, pragmatic view on this.

Until there is reform and regulation on bankers' pay and bonuses, they will remain driven by the way the market currently is.

We should scrutinise Hester's running of the bank closely over the coming years.

If there is no tangible improvement in the share price then, as shareholders, we should give him the boot and find someone able to deliver.

It's imperative that we do not shoot ourselves in the foot by launching a witch hunt over one banker's pay when we need to be showing that RBS is an attractive place for the best in the industry to work.

RBS owes us and it's down to us to make sure we claw every penny back, and more.

That may mean paying - shock horror - a lot of money to a banker.