Westminster has agreed a £2.3 billion deal to sell the Green Investment Bank to an Australian financial giant.
The Macquarie Group will hand over £1.7bn to clinch the sale, with the remainder coming in part from the UK-based Universities Superannuation Scheme, a private pension fund for academic staff.
Announcing the purchase, the group has said it will honour the bank’s new £3bn target for investment in green energy projects over the next three years and maintain its environmental focus.
It pledged to strengthen its commitment to Scotland by providing new opportunities for the low-carbon and financial sectors. The bank’s Edinburgh office and staff will also be retained.
Daniel Wong, head of Macquarie Capital, Europe, said: “The Green Investment Bank is a pioneering business, with outstanding people, expertise, credentials, brand and networks.
“By combining the Green Investment Bank with the largest infrastructure investor in the world, we will create a market-leading platform dedicated to investment in the low-carbon economy in the UK and beyond.”
The move has been welcomed by Scottish ministers, who had criticised the UK government’s decision to privatise the bank over concerns for the renewable energy industry.
Economy secretary Keith Brown said: “I welcome the Macquarie Group’s clear commitment to Scotland and the assurances we have received that it will maintain the Green Investment Bank’s unique identity and its focus on the green projects that are key to Scotland’s continued economic success.”
Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, added: “The Green Investment Bank has played a key role in securing investment for renewable energy, particularly in offshore, wind where we needed to bring in significant levels of capital in a short space of time.
“We welcome Macquarie’s commitment to build upon the bank’s achievements to date and to maintain its focus on the huge opportunities for further investment in the UK’s low-carbon energy infrastructure.”
But opposition parties have hit out at the sale, questioning the low price paid and Macquarie’s concern for the planet.
The group has a history of investing in fossil fuels, including fracking and opencast coal mining.
Scottish Greens MSP for the Lothians Andy Wightman says the bank’s new ownership leaves its environmental credentials “in tatters”.
Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, formerly UK energy and climate change secretary, described the deal as “politically dubious” and tantamount to “selling off the family silver”.