Warnings over Scottish National Investment Bank

13 Feb 19

The success of the planned £2bn Scottish National Investment Bank could be undermined by inadequate capitalisation and vulnerability to political interference, the Scottish Government has been warned.

A consultation into the new bank, which is expected to be operational next year, showed strong support for the new body, with stakeholders praising its mission-based approach, ethical commitment and potential to grow the Scottish economy.

However, some respondents raised concerns over the bank’s potential to deliver transformative change, warning that the level of capitalisation envisaged by the Scottish Government would be insufficient to make an impact in the market.

Both the initial £490m investment in the bank, and the proposed £2bn long term capitalisation, would be inadequate to deliver the transformative impact desired, they said.

There was also concern that the new bank could, through its governance structure, be open to political manipulation or interference. Action would be needed to prevent the bank becoming a political instrument, and to ensure its long-term investment strategy could be balanced against shorter term political interests, the government was told.

Some respondents also questioned whether the services to be provided the bank were not already available within the banking industry, and said it should not become an easy way for businesses to gain cheaper financial products than those already available on the market.

The consultation drew a determined response from the environmental sector, with over 95% of the 1,443 submissions received generated by an organised campaign by Friends of the Earth Scotland calling for the bank to support a low carbon economy and to rule out lending to fossil fuel projects.   

All respondents were supportive of the bank being as open and transparent as possible.

Finance secretary Derek Mackay said the consultation showed “strong support” for the mission-orientated approach, which focused strategic public sector investment to catalyse economic activity, spark innovation, help solve societal issues and lay the foundations for future economic growth.

“We also received overwhelming support for a possible early mission around helping to move Scotland towards a low carbon economy,” he said.

The consultation had shown broad agreement on the governance of the bank, he added, and particularly that it should be operationally and administratively independent of government.

Views on the bank’s level of capitalisation would be “considered carefully”, he said.

Mackay said that a stakeholder working group was now being set up to ensure the bank had the “right values, vision and purpose” to transform the Scottish economy.

Did you enjoy this article?