Scotland gets a National Investment Bank

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Good news for Scotland yesterday. As Common Space noted:

Today Scottish Government published its implementation plan for a Scottish National Investment Bank.

This proposal - spearheaded by Common Weal in our 2016 blueprint - has the potential to become one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Scottish Government since devolution. We strongly welcome these plans and are genuinely excited to see them develop. To quote the First Minister, "If we get this right, then this has the potential to be truly transformative”.

First, congratulations to Common Weal, with whom I have worked, on this success. And let's note the upsides, as they do:

  • It is to be a bank — A limited investment fund would never be able to reach the scale the SNIB needs nor would it be self-sustaining in the long term.
  • It is to be mission driven — The purpose of the SNIB is to work for the Common Good, where ever that lies, rather than just to chase easy profit.
  • It is to be ambitious — Which should go without saying but witness previous failed schemes which were simply left to wither on their vines.
  • It is to take a long term approach to finance — Many commercial banks seek to return their investment within a very short time thus simply won't countenance projects which need the support of "patient finance". By looking at 10-15 year timescales, and perhaps longer, the SNIB can support projects that simply will not happen without it.
  • It will be publicly owned — And hopefully, unlike schemes like the Green Investment Bank, it shall stay that way.
  • It will invest in SMEs and public infrastructure — This will be a major part of the bank's operations although it must also go beyond this
  • It will have a governance model which recognises its mission and the diversity of Scotland's economy and society — If the SNIB were simply captured by the banking sector, it would fail. If it were to be solely subject to the whims of political advantage, it would fail. The bank needs to have a diverse governance model and there is much in this proposal that it does well to lay a solid foundation for good governance. Importantly, the bank shall have a stakeholder advisory group which can keep the focus on the needs of Scottish society.

So is it enough? No. There’s not enough capital. It’s constrained by The Treasury. It will not deliver the transformation on the scale needed as a result.

But it is a decided  step in the right direction.

If it could deliver a Green New Deal for Scotland it would be amazing.