Fears for jobs and ethics at green bank

GUARANTEES are being demanded from the UK government that the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank will stay in the Capital and remain true to its original purpose despite privatisation plans.

Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The bank – the first of its kind in the world – was set up to invest in new green infrastructure projects in areas including waste management, energy efficiency and offshore wind.

Edinburgh was chosen to be the headquarters in 2012, beating off competition from 34 other UK cities. Around 30 people are employed at its base in Morrison Street.

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But UK Business Secretary Sajid Javid revealed the privatisation move at the bank’s annual meeting last month. It is thought as much as 70 per cent of the bank could be sold off.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney urged the UK government to commit to maintaining a public stake and called for assurances it would retain its original purpose and the headquarters and jobs would be kept in Edinburgh.

He said: “Edinburgh was specifically chosen to reflect Scotland’s position at the vanguard of the renewables sector.

“The original purpose of the bank, which was to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy, must be retained. I am concerned that privatisation is seen as further evidence of the UK government turning its back on green initiatives.”

Edinburgh West MSP and SNP Shadow Business Secretary Michelle Thomson echoed the concerns. She said: “I am in search of solid guarantees from the UK government that the unique purpose of the Green Investment Bank can in no way be compromised by any future privatisation plans.

“The bank’s concept must maintain a public stake to secure its future growth. Its function is primarily to seek investment in ethical manufacturing and services that will work towards lowering our carbon footprint and tackling climate change.

“Banks, in general, are not renowned for their ethical behaviour. I am anxious to ensure that the £3.8 billion capital provided to the bank is carried through in the right way.”

And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack also voiced fears about what privatisation would mean for the bank’s future.

She said: “The bank was created because traditional banks were not investing in new green companies. It is vital that the bank remains focused on that aim. My worry is that privatisation will be a step away from that goal and will damage the ambition which led to its establishment.”

The city council also has concerns and is monitoring the situation.

Economy leader Frank Ross said: “A great deal of hard work went into preparing what was a compelling business case for bringing the Green Investment Bank to Edinburgh in 2011.

“With the strength of our finance sector, versatile and well-qualified workforce, a growing research and development hub, and a high quality of life to all who choose to live, work or invest here, the conditions remain ideal.”