The Scottish government’s approach to delivering its promised national investment bank, revealed last week, starts with inspiration drawn from the late 15th century Florentine artistic genius Michelangelo. His caution that “the greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it” tops the foreword from the banker ministers invited to put together the bank’s implementation plan. There was a public consultation into what this bank should look like and what needs it should address. That elicited 1108 responses. The vast majority – 753 – came out of an organised campaign from Friends of the Earth Scotland, arguing it should target only inequality and climate change. Of the 44 other bodies submitting views, just six were from business and industry. The Higgins roadmap draws on an international comparison of state investment banks and patient finance, commissioned from UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. It ranges widely, from KfW in Germany, through the European Investment Bank and the China Development Bank to the Nordic Investment Bank and Finnvera in Finland. Nowhere is there acknowledgement that the UK – or Scotland – have form in this kind of state-sponsored investment in business and infrastructure. There is passing reference to some current initiatives, like the almost untapped Scottish Growth Fund. But only to propose they be absorbed into this new investment bank. Germany’s much-admired KfW was launched in 1948. But in 1945, the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation (ICFC) was created by the Bank of England and a consortium of UK clearing banks to fund smaller and medium sized enterprises. Within a year the Attlee government nationalised the Bank of England and ICFC came to be widely regarded as a state-sponsored initiative to redress the business funding failures of the 1930s.
Times 7th March 2018 read more »
The government has been criticised for slashing a target to decarbonise home heating in its final climate change plan. Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham defended the decision to reduce a target to have 80% of domestic buildings’ heat supplied using low carbon technologies by 2032 to just 35%. Ms Cunningham told MSPs at Holyrood the decision had been taken in response to independent advice that the original target was not credible. But she faced accusations that ambition had been scaled back in many areas between a draft of the plan released last year and the final version unveiled last week. Labour’s Claudia Beamish called for an explanation of why sectoral targets had changed “so dramatically for the worse” between the two plans. She said: “The stark difference between the plan and the government’s earlier draft is puzzling, in some areas swinging quite dramatically from unrealistic to unambitious or, in the cabinet secretary’s own words, more achievable.” She welcomed the government’s drive to cut transport emissions by phasing out fossil fuelled vehicles, but added it was “so disappointing to see that used, in my understanding of the final plan, to reduce effort in other sectors.” Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “It certainly does appear that this plan is is very different to the draft because if you add up all the Scottish Government policies in the final plan it results in emissions reductions one million tonnes less than in the draft.” Lib Dem Liam McArthur: “It’s right that the cabinet secretary takes on board points made about deliverability of targets but can she really justify a collapse in the target for low carbon domestic heat from 80% in the draft to 35% in the final plan?”
Energy Voice 7th March 2018 read more »