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More scrutiny demanded

MSPs call for key role in steering new investment bank

Gordon Lindhurst MSP and RSAMSPs should be given the right to determine the long-term policies of the Scottish National Investment Bank, according to a new report.

The Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee at Holyrood has approved the general principles of the Bill enabling the Bank to be set up, but has identified “several areas” that need more scrutiny.

These include the role of an advisory group, stimulating demand and the role of MSPs when it comes to setting the missions of the Bank.

The committee felt that without formal Parliament approval, the missions could be downgraded in importance. It therefore concluded that the Parliament should have a formal role in setting the long-term focus of the Bank’s work.

Committee Convener, Gordon Lindhurst, pictured, said: “From the array of evidence we heard, the Scottish National Investment Bank has the potential to be a positive and integral part of the Scottish economy.

“However, there are areas covered by the Bill and accompanying documents on which further work is required to ensure that the Bank’s full potential is achieved.”

Mr Lindhurst added: “The Committee considers that there is a crucial and formal role that MSPs should continue to play in the development of the Bank. Similar processes exist in other pieces of comparable legislation and would be entirely appropriate here.

“In coming to this conclusion the Committee recognised the vital role the Bank will play in fundamental policy matters such as social housing, climate change or the care system, to name but a few.”

The Scottish National Investment Bank Bill sets out to place a duty on the Scottish Ministers to establish the Bank as a public limited company and gives Scottish Ministers the necessary powers to capitalise it. Scottish Ministers have also been given the power to set the strategic direction of the bank. The government is backing the bank with £2 billion over the next decade.

While the Bank will be operationally and administratively independent, the Scottish Ministers, as the Bank’s sole shareholder and sponsor will set the parameters within which the Bank should work.

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie said it was crucial that the Bank did not become another failed SNP project.

“The Scottish National Investment Bank cannot be a wasted opportunity and another SNP failure in government,” she said.

“That is why I am calling on the SNP to at least match Scottish Labour’s plans to deliver at least £20 billion of capital funding to lend to firms across the country.

“Our communities need investment and an end to austerity which has starved our public services and businesses for too many years.”

In a speech in April former Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins, who led the inquiry into setting up the Bank, insisted it had the funding required to “make a difference”.

 



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