The newly launched Scottish National Investment Bank provides an eagerly awaited platform for a more innovative approach to future investment in Scotland. It’s not supposed to operate like other banks; for a start, its shareholders are you and me – the Scottish people. With a mission to think differently and independently, it’s the champion of innovation and equity. Designed to enable people in Scotland to flourish, increasing productivity and our natural innovation, our new National Investment Bank is also committed to equality of opportunity geographically across Scotland to improve place by 2040.
To achieve this, it will invest its £2 billion starter funding on projects aiming to meet social challenges facing Scotland in the future. This includes supporting the Scottish government’s efforts to tackle the climate emergency, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 and to navigate the transition from fossil fuels.
With its first £12.5 million investment awarded to a new company, M squared, the bank is actively investing as I write.
As ever, with opportunity, comes threat and under current constitutional arrangements, the Scottish National Investment Bank will only be able to fully function if the UK Government does not stand in its way.
There are two substantial issues challenging progress – that we don’t yet know what is next from Brexit and crucially, decisions around state aid arrangements. In the event of a no-deal Brexit or – as is more likely – an insufficient deal, risks to progress around state aid and our economic drivers’ increase further.
State aid rules should not be a barrier to the Scottish National Investment Bank. If we were an independent member state of the EU, we would have the ability to set our state aid parameters within the policy framework, just as other EU nations who run their investment banks have done. It is the decisions of Westminster on Brexit and its infamous Internal Market Bill that threaten our progress.
With the UK Ministers delaying dispensation on the Scottish National Investment Bank until the end of 2021, their ability to hamper this venture increases further. Without Treasury dispensation, the bank’s balance will have to be accommodated within Scotland’s overall reserves, limiting opportunities to expand.
These challenges and constraints further highlight that the current system of government impedes our ability to realise the full potential of our people and economy. To every new policy or venture, there is always another hurdle, another battle with Westminster. There is a better way. As with many of our other policy ambitions, this bank has the potential to inject hope into our communities and businesses.
We need to be able to create and deliver policies that meet the needs of our people – to achieve this; we need to have the control that comes with independence. The Scottish National Investment Bank can be the start of a new, fairer and more responsive economic future for Scotland and our people.
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