Scottish National Investment Bank ‘must have clear social mission’

21 Nov 17

Public consultation on the Scottish Government’s plan for a Scottish National Investment Bank has ended with a plea from a left-of-centre think-tank to give the bank a clear social mission.

Public consultation on the Scottish Government’s plan for a Scottish National Investment Bank has ended with a plea from a left-of-centre think tank to give the bank a clear social mission.

In its submission to MSPs, Common Weal argues that only a guaranteed mission to act for “the common good” can keep the bank from eventually turning into just another profit-seeking financial institution. 

The group also wants a guarantee that the bank cannot eventually be privatised, as happened to the UK government’s Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank.

The SNIB, announced by first minister Nicola Sturgeon in September’s Programme for Government, is being set up on behalf of ministers by a working group led by the Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins.

Common Weal, a long-time campaigner for an SNIB, argues that it must be structured to support projects that contribute to “a ‘public good’ intervention in the economy as a whole”. 

The warning reflects perceptions among some that previous government economic interventions like the enterprise agencies have become increasingly commercial in their approach.

The think-tank suggests a series of mission statements setting out the bank’s commitment to diversity of ownership, sectoral rebalancing, innovation and addressing social and economic “imperatives.” 

It also wants a stakeholder governance structure, a commitment to retain the bank in majority public ownership, and an entitlement to lend to both the public and private sectors.

 “This is a really big opportunity for Scotland, but we really need to get this right,” Robin McAlpine, Common Weal director, said.

“A half-hearted attempt to do this will only leave an institution that no-one really comes to love.

“This needs to be well designed, mission-driven and bold in its scale and ambition if it is to have the impact it should and if it is to become a permanent, trusted and respected part of Scotland’s economic future.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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