Climate activists at the Scottish Parliament, 25 September 2019

Scotland’s new public bank, the Scottish National Investment Bank, will become law later this year, following its endorsement by MSPs.

The idea for such a Bank came from civil society. Indeed it was a report by Friends of the Earth Scotland and Common Weal which brought the public banking into the UK and Scottish political mainstream.

When the Scottish National Investment Bank was announced back in 2017 Nicola Sturgeon told us this new Bank would address the climate crisis.

But since then the Bank’s journey has been rocky, as we reported last year. Official appointments to the Bank have come from the private sector, with the new Chair a stock market trader and the Senior Advisor a former RBS banker. The Economy Minister clearly signalled he wanted the Bank to focus on lending to small and medium sized businesses; relatively unconcerned with what they actually do with the money.

Worst of all, climate change was not mentioned once in the Bank’s founding legislation, unveiled in Spring 2019. Literally not at all. Not even a tiny snippet.

So we fought back.

To reclaim our public Bank, Friends of the Earth supporters and friends have contacted MSPs and Ministers literally thousands of times encouraging them to correct its course. Youth strikers, trade unions, environmental groups all got involved and raised the pressure.

Together we demanded a clear, unequivocal objective in law for the Bank to invest in a just transition to zero carbon. We also demanded a clear set of minimum ethical standards for the Bank’s investments.

And we won both of these things.

This is a huge achievement. As a result of the pressure exerted by campaigners we’ve made huge strides to ensuring this is a Public Bank for the common good – and not just another business as usual investor.

We have a clear legislative requirement for our public bank to invest in projects that will promote a Just Transition to a fossil free economy to tackle our contribution to the climate crisis.

Now that the Scottish National Investment Bank is law, there are other battles to be won.

The Bank is required to set minimum ethical standards – but what standards will they set? There is a real risk that a loophole is left open for the Bank to invest in fossil fuel projects. We’ll be watching closely to make sure this is not the case. We want a strong commitment from the Scottish Government to end fossil fuel funding and finance.

Scotland’s National Investment Bank will invest at least £2 billion over the next 10 years, at a time when finance for the green economy is at its lowest since 2008. It’s important we keep up the pressure to ensure that this Bank invests money to shape our economy for how it needs to look in 10, 20 and even 30 years time.

As we move on to the next battle, it’s important to take stock too. The changes made since the Bank was first introduced are huge. 

The climate movement is powerful and we can win.

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Ric Lander

Ric Lander is Divestment Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland.

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