FM: Scottish National Investment Bank plans to 'move at pace'

The Scottish Government is to "move at pace" to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon said the publication of an implementation plan for the institution on Wednesday was "a very significant milestone", adding she had noted recommendations to have the bank operating in "shadow form" by next year.

The plan, developed by Tesco Bank chief Benny Higgins, said the bank should be supported by long-term capitalisation of at least £2 billion over the first 10 years.

Ms Sturgeon said the government had already taken the first steps towards this by earmarking £500 million over the next three years, describing the funding as a "substantial down-payment".

The First Minister also confirmed the bank will be established as a public body, operating independently "within a strategic framework set by government".

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It will become self-sustaining in the longer term, providing finance to small firms and larger projects, and creating new markets for the private sector to invest.

Ms Sturgeon said: "To realise our ambitions for Scotland's economy, innovative companies need access to strategic, patient finance to grow and thrive, while the business environment must encourage our young people to be the entrepreneurs of the future.

"That is why I committed to a publicly-owned national investment bank, which will act as a cornerstone for the economy.

"I thank Benny Higgins and the advisory group for their work to bring this aspiration a step closer.

"If we get it right, this has the potential to be truly transformative."

She added: "I want to stress today that we are determined now to move at pace, and I note in particular the recommendation that we should aim to have the bank operating in shadow form in 2019 pending the passage of the legislation that will be required to establish the bank."

Mr Higgins, Tesco Bank's chief executive, said: "There is an incontrovertible case for creating the Scottish National Investment Bank.

"The economic and social wellbeing of our country will be enhanced by an institution that complements private sector investment, with a clear focusing on SMEs and projects that require strategic patient capital."

Scottish Labour's economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said that while the plans for the bank were welcome, they were not bold enough.

"The SNP's proposed Scottish Investment Bank is in danger of not having enough money to do the job required, to invest in business and grow our economy," she said.

"Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a Scottish Investment Bank worthy of the name, with £20 billion of funding over the next decade - ten times more than the amount proposed by the SNP, because that's what it takes to really transform our economy."

The Scottish Government will respond fully to the recommendations set out in the implementation plan in May.