The Scottish Government has been ‘re-assured’ – again – by the British Government over the strategic importance of the UK Green Investment Bank.
The Edinburgh-based bank is in the process of being de-nationalised and sold by the UK government to Australia’s MacQuarrie Group investment bank – known as the ‘kangaroo vulture’.
As part of the process, the UK government has restructured the share capital so that it holds a ‘special share’ to ensure that the Green Investment Bank remains committed to ‘green’ renewable energy investments.
But despite being raised by the minority-SNP Scottish government (and first reported by Scottish Energy News) no such re-assurance or probative commitment has been demonstrated by the UK government to keeping a fully-operational and functioning GIB head office in Edinburgh.
So internally-distracted is it by its privatisation, the Green Investment Bank website still refers to the UK Dept for Energy (DECC) – which was abolished last year by Prime Minister T. May.
Senior officials at the Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh include some of the highest-paid civil servants in Britain, where director-level salaries of £250,000 a year are commonplace.
But this is only a fraction of what senior bank management, such as Chief Executive Shaun Kingsbury, could expect to pocket in the same job in the private-sector in London.
Today, Keith Brown, Scottish Trade & Industry Minister, said he has received assurances from the UK Government that the strategic importance of the Green Investment Bank to Scotland will be ‘fully considered’ as part of ongoing discussions around its privatisation.
Brown spoke to the UK Government’s Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry yesterday. During the conversation he also pressed for greater transparency around the privatisation process and for confirmation that the bank will continue to be headquartered in Edinburgh.
Brown said: “The Green Investment Bank plays a unique strategic role in funding innovative and higher risk low carbon projects in Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is my view that the sell-off of this key organisation will seriously threaten our green economy, which plays such an important role for Scotland.
“Yesterday I discussed this important issue with the UK Government’s Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry who acknowledged the strategic importance of the Green Investment Bank for Scotland and accepted the need to improve communications between the UK and Scottish Governments around the sale.
“In 2015 the then Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills gave assurances the bank’s green purpose would be protected after privatisation. This is still central to my vision of how the bank will operate in the future and is something that I will continue to press.
“I have also made further representations to the UK Government about the importance of retaining the bank’s Edinburgh Headquarters, which currently employs 55 highly skilled staff.
“I have reaffirmed my determination to ensure these roles are protected at a similar standing and scale as the present arrangement so that we can continue to drive forward the green agenda, promote future growth and create more jobs both within the organisation and the wider sector.
“This is the right thing to do, not only because Scotland already has the pool of expertise needed to support the bank, but also because it is symbolic of Scotland’s role as a leader within the green energy sector.”
Similar UK government assurances were made last year to Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney; See also 3 Feb 2016:
‘Special protection’ for Green Investment Bank’s ‘green mission’ – but no guarantee its 50 highly-paid financial sector jobs will stay in Scotland
Brown added: “It is my belief as I’m sure it for Ash Denham, that headquartering the bank in Scotland is extremely important,” and fellow SNP MSP Ash Denham (Edinburgh East), commented:
“As an Edinburgh MSP I am extremely concerned about the 55 jobs supported by the Green Investment Bank in the area, not to mention the impact of privatisation on the bank’s responsibility to support the environment.
“The Tories have an awful record on the environment – with the UK government slashing support for renewables and betraying a manifesto commitment to deliver a £1 billion investment in carbon capture technology in Scotland.
“I am pleased that Cabinet Secretary Keith Brown is continuing to press the UK government on the issue of retaining jobs in Edinburgh. It is once again clear that the Tories cannot be trusted to make decisions or deliver policies that protect jobs, our climate or communities across Scotland.”
It is a widely accepted law of Scottish political gravity that when a UK public sector body located in Scotland is privatised, the move into the private sector is swiftly followed by a physical move of the head office and senior management to London.
Unemployment in Scotland increased by 11,000 in the period September to November 2016, and now stands at 139,000, according to the latest data from the UK Office for National Statistics.
The Scottish unemployment rate is 5.1 per cent, which is above the rate of 4.8 per cent for the whole of the UK.