A contender for the hollowest of arguments coming out of Holyrood, possibly not just in this current term but in the Parliament’s history, must surely be the SNP’s calls for the UK to locate its Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh. Marco Biagi, MSP for Edinburgh Central, has reiterated those calls over the weekend.

What makes the argument particularly empty is the seeming unwillingness on the part of the SNP to directly address the elephant in the room about this decision, the fact that Scotland may well not be a part of the UK in a few years time.

I enjoyed a bit of Twitter back and forth on the matter on Saturday evening with Marco as follows:

Stepping back for a moment to consider what this Green Investment’s Bank’s purpose is, we have the following statement from the main Government site on the institution:

The UK is to set up the world’s first investment bank solely dedicated to greening the economy.

The initiative is part of the Government’s commitment to setting the UK firmly on course towards a green and growing economy, while also delivering long-term sustainable growth.

This transition to a green economy presents significant growth opportunities for UK-based businesses, both at home and abroad.

So it’s pretty clear that this is a UK bank then and not an international or EU body.


The Green Investment Bank project will evolve over three phases:

UK Green Investments – From 2012 until state aid approval for GIB is granted, BIS’s UK Green Investments project will make direct investments in green infrastructure projects
Establishment – GIB will be established as a as a stand-alone institution following state-aid approval. It is expected that state aid approval will be granted in spring 2013.
Full borrowing GIB – From April 2015, the GIB will be given full powers to borrow, subject to public sector net debt falling as a percentage of GDP and further state aid approval being granted.

So investments/establishment and full borrowing will straddle the date of the independence referendum and there is no way of knowing, at the time when the bank is getting up and running, whether Scotland will be a part of the UK or not by the time the Green Investment Bank gets going. Who in their right mind would start to build such a bank north of the border?

Marco’s argument seems to be that the Prime Minister of rUK should hire foreign Scottish bankers to run an rUK bank, just because a significant amount of local green energy potential happens to be in Scotland. By this same logic, Cairn Energy shouldn’t be based on Lothian Road in Edinburgh but should be hiring Indian and Greenland accountants to run its finances and head office operations outside of Scotland.

It is at best fanciful and at worst hypocritical to argue for a UK institution to sit within Scotland while simultaneously arguing for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and be a separate country.

Granted, as pointed out on Twitter above, it is possible for the Green Investment Bank to be adapted into an IGO if Scottish independence was to go ahead but that is such an awkward argument to make against the backdrop of the coming referendum that it surely won’t carry much, if any, water. ‘Say no to UK’s nuclear weapons (but Yes to their Green Bank)’ does not a catchy slogan make.

When this approach is compared and contrasted with the Scottish Lib Dem argument that Scotland is stronger within the UK and that this Green Investment Bank should be in Edinburgh, with its £3bn+ of investment, it is clear that there is a distinct lack of cohesion. It is also, incidentally, a shame that party differences and looming elections seem to be preventing the SNP and Lib Dems from working together on this one.

Marco’s been sent out to bat on this one and he’s doing so manfully despite a very sticky wicket indeed. Fair play to him but I’m afraid I am not buying this approach from the SNP at all and far from it being a case of standing up for Scotland, it strikes me as being a quick way of undermining one’s argument in favour of independence and appearing really quite dishearteningly disingenuous in the process.

I guess disingenuous trumps irrelevant when it comes to fighting to get involved in such a key UK decision that affects the important Scottish areas of environment, banking and employment.

Scottish independence and a UK Green Investment Bank based in Edinburgh are an either/or situation that may even end up proving to be neither/nor. If the SNP was serious about having this bank in Scotland, it would be holding its referendum sooner rather than later.