Radical potential of the Scottish National Investment Bank

Posted: 10 March 2020, in News

The Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) is an innovative, new, publicly owned bank that aims to invest in businesses and enable our economy to thrive.

The bank missions are aligned to Scottish Government policy priorities. Specifically, investing in organisations that contribute towards a net-zero carbon economy, place-making and regeneration and adapting to demographic change.

The bank has been designed to provide patient finance to businesses of all kinds and to build new markets. The focus will be on low-volume, high-value investments. However, it’s not been designed to replace other loan finance, particularly that of low value.

Social Enterprise Scotland has been working in close partnership with SCVO, the body that represents charities and voluntary groups, for over a year to shape the new bank.

Our aim has been to ensure that the new SNIB is open and inclusive to social enterprises and charities. We wanted to guarantee that the Bank could potentially lend to social enterprises and, in particular, to future proof any new social impact delivery models in a fast-changing landscape.

This work included a themed event at our Social Enterprise Cross-Party Group in The Scottish Parliament. At the meeting we heard from a SNIB official, SCVO and Common Weal, the think tank that produced the Banking for the Common Good report on what a national investment bank might look like.

There was originally a perceived narrow focus by the SNIB on the private sector, for some time before our joint work began. However, during discussions with bank officials the third sector was frequently mentioned.

During the past few months we’ve had numerous meetings with these officials, at various levels and within different teams. This was to ensure that all of the legislation, missions, operating plan and culture of the bank would serve third sector customers as well as the private sector.

We were reassured that the social enterprise community would very much be included going forward. This was both in informing the ethical status and structure of the bank, as well as social enterprises being potential investees.

The SNIB legislation was passed unanimously in parliament and was amended to guarantee potential investment in social enterprises and charities. The final result was very much a clarification of the vital role of social enterprises to our economy.

The new bank will sit alongside social enterprise, fair trade, co-operatives, Participatory Budgeting, the real living wage, credit unions, basic income and many more economic innovations. Though different they all share similar aims of a thriving, inclusive economy.

Only with different sectors and economic movements coming together can the vision of a socially just economy be achieved. As we move towards this better economic model and seek to build a wellbeing economy and community wealth, social enterprises must take the lead.

Though the status of the new bank has now passed into law we need to ensure that the legislation translates into reality on the ground. This very much includes continuing to help social enterprises get their voices heard in shaping the investment activities of the bank and guaranteeing that it stays on mission.

We look forward to the new SNIB helping drive our economy forward, in partnership with all of Scotland’s innovative and ethical businesses.

Duncan Thorp, Social Enterprise Scotland