Duncan Thorp: New bank a good investment for economy and third sector

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.

Duncan Thorp, Social Enterprise Scotland
Duncan Thorp, Social Enterprise Scotland

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

The bank has been designed to ­provide finance to businesses of all kinds and to build new ­markets with a focus on low-volume, ­high-value investments. ­

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However, it has 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 more than 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.

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This work included a themed event at our Social Enterprise Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament where 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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