Scottish National Investment Bank (Wellbeing Economy)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 November 2023.

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Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what assurances it has received that the Scottish National Investment Bank is supporting its ambition to create a wellbeing economy, in light of there not being an advisory board in place. (S6O-02752)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Now that the Scottish National Investment Bank is fully established, with a growing portfolio of investments, work is under way to establish the advisory group. We receive assurances on the bank’s support for a wellbeing economy through the fact that the missions that ministers set for the bank align closely with our wellbeing economy principles; the fact that the bank’s robust investment processes ensure that investments align to at least one mission; and the work of the bank to measure the benefits of its investments, information on which was published in the bank’s impact report. Senior officials and I also have regular meetings with the bank’s senior leadership team.

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

The Scottish National Investment Bank has been in operation for three years now and, recently, serious allegations have been made against it. One is that the bank lent £7.5 million to a company that is run by the brother of a bank employee—a company that was loss making and whose accounts were overdue. It has also been reported that there was political pressure to invest £9 million in Circularity Scotland, most of which has now been lost.

I do not know whether those accusations are true, but I know that, if the advisory board was in place, as is required in law, we would have the assurance that things were in order. Does the cabinet secretary accept that it is vital that the advisory board is put in place as soon as possible?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Yes, I do. We are looking to establish that, as I said in my answer to Mr Lumsden’s first question. In addition to bringing about the advisory group, as I also set out in that answer, I have regular meetings with the senior management. I most recently met the chair and chief executive on 2 November. My officials meet regularly to ensure that we have that oversight. The advisory group will be set up as soon as possible, now that the bank is fully operational.

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

In light of recent reports that the Scottish National Investment Bank is investing in firms that are linked to personnel at the bank, what work is the Scottish Government undertaking to improve transparency at the bank, avoid such conflicts of interest, and meet the high standards that are expected of a public entity?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

As I set out to Mr Lumsden, on the bank’s support for a wellbeing economy, we receive assurances that its work links to at least one of its missions at our regular meetings with the bank, at official and ministerial levels. The bank also has to publish an impact report. All its investments are made in a transparent way so that people can see them clearly.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The failure of the recent United Kingdom Government auction for offshore wind subsidy contracts to attract any new projects has left investors with reduced confidence in UK renewables, according to the recent Ernst & Young renewable energy attractiveness report, with the UK dropping down its international rankings. Will the cabinet secretary provide an update on any strategic investment through the Scottish National Investment Bank that will accelerate Scotland’s offshore renewables capabilities and help to secure a just transition for our energy sector and a fairer and greener Scotland for everyone?

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

What does that have to do with my question?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Mr Lumsden, do you wish to make a point of order?

Photo of Douglas Lumsden Douglas Lumsden Conservative

Yes. On a point of order, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Do supplementary questions not have to have some relevance to the initial question that was asked? The initial question was about an advisory board for the Scottish National Investment Bank, and Mr Stewart’s supplementary question seems to have no relevance to that whatsoever.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I thank Mr Lumsden for his point of order. I listened carefully to Mr Stewart’s supplementary question, and he sufficiently brought the issue back to Mr Lumsden’s initial question on the assurances that the Scottish Government has received from the Scottish National Investment Bank that it is

“supporting its ambition to create a wellbeing economy”.

As I understood it, that was the part of the question that Mr Stewart was getting at, and perhaps that is the part of Mr Stewart’s question on which the cabinet secretary could focus his reply.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

I appreciate that direction, Deputy Presiding Officer.

Mr Stewart will appreciate that I cannot give details on active investments that the Scottish National Investment Bank is currently working on. However, the bank has a strong record on investments that contribute to the offshore renewable sector, including the £6.6 million investment in the clean-energy pioneer Verlume, whose technology uses intelligent energy management to deliver a constant output of power from renewable sources, supporting the company’s expansion plans. In addition, the bank’s £50 million investment in North Star Renewables is supporting the building of service operations vessels to assist the renewable energy sector and strengthening Scotland’s position as a global leader in the offshore wind supply chain. The bank will also be a key delivery partner in relation to the recent £500 million commitment to ScotWind and its supply chain.