Scottish National Investment Bank must have a guaranteed ‘public good’ mission

Common Weal has proposed a ‘stakeholder’ governance structure made up of a diverse cross-section of the economy

THE Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) must have a series of ‘public good’ mission guarantees to prevent it ever becoming a typical for-profit bank, Common Weal has argued in its submission to the public consultation on the implementation of the new bank.

The submission to the public consultation on the implementation of SNIB, which closed on Monday 20 November, can be read in full here

Common Weal has led campaigning for the introduction of SNIB including over two reports (here and here), and argues in its submission that the bank must be structured to “make investments in enterprise and infrastructure in Scotland which works towards a 'public good' intervention in the economy as a whole”, proposing a series of approaches which can ensure that.

These include:

  •  A clear set of mission statements which clearly define the lending criteria of the bank, including re-balancing economy sectors, promoting diversity of ownership models in business, supporting innovation and meeting social and environmental imperatives.
  • A ‘stakeholder’ governance structure which includes business and worker representation in governance, and which looks at the potential for mixed public ownership across Scottish Government and local authorities so that there is no one majority stakeholder, preventing the bank from ever being privatised.
  • The bank should lend to both private-sector and public institutions, expanding investment in public infrastructure like housing and transport at low-cost.
  • The bank must be established with full banking functions and of sufficient size to be able to lead and direct a new kind of economic development. The paper proposes a number of necessary steps to capitalisation in order to achieve this.

“This is a really big opportunity for Scotland, but we really need to get this right. A half-hearted attempt to do this will only leave an institution that no-one really comes to love.” Robin McAlpine

Commenting on the submission, Common Weal head of policy Ben Wray stated:

“The implementation of a Scottish National Investment Bank is a huge opportunity to establish a vehicle that can lead economic development in Scotland for the public good. Those tasked with designing the implementation plan must not settle for half-measures, or a bank that is subordinate to the existing Scottish financial sector.

“It must be a major publicly-owned bank with the capacity to lend for public-sector investment and incentivise businesses to work to social and ecological imperatives. It also must have a governance structure made up of businesses and civic organisations as well as bankers, and to prevent it ever being sold-off by a future government which doesn’t understand the value in public-led economic development, like the UK’s Green Investment Bank.”

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