The Scottish Government’s Scottish National Investment Bank Bill was recently passed and I am pleased to say that it included some successful amendments from Scottish Co-operative and Labour MSPs.

The Scottish National Investment Bank will exist to support businesses through longer-term borrowing to assist the sustainable development of Scotland’s economy.

As a member of the Scottish Co-operative Party MSPs, I am clear that it is important that co-operatives and mutually owned businesses are recognised and encouraged through the Scottish National Investment Bank. This is a great opportunity for co-ops in all sectors. I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament supported amendments put forward by Co-operative Party members to allow the new bank to support co-operatives.

During stage 3 of the Bill, I asked the Finance cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay for a meeting with a range of representatives of the co-operative economy to discuss opportunities. Specifically I want to know how the new bank will support the co-operative sector.  As he did not answer this question, I have now written to him formally requesting this meeting.

I am pleased also that the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that third sector bodies, community interest companies, social enterprises and co-operatives can be considered for financing.

This is positive news for the many small and mediums sized companies operating across South Scotland and throughout urban and rural Scotland more widely.

The Scottish National Investment Bank will specifically help with the Just Transition to a net zero economy in a fair way, an issue recognised through the Bill. My own amendment at stage 3 was successful in creating a subsection of the Bill which will put the environmental wellbeing commitment at the heart of investment decisions, which is critical in light of the climate and environmental emergency we face. Due to my amendment, the bank will be required to consider the protection of biodiversity.

Scottish Labour & Co-operative MSPs also secured amendments to ensure the Bank implements a gender equality strategy and equal pay review to address the gender pay gap.

Where the Bill was less successful is the Bill’s failure to include collective bargaining principles within the legislation. This shows a lack of support for good employment practices despite the SNP’s earlier commitments to promote collective bargaining.

It is also disappointing that the funding available to the bank at 2 billion over 10 years is significantly short of the 20 billion proposed by Scottish Labour and Co-operative MSPs.

Despite its limitations, the Scottish National Investment Bank is a welcome contribution to the development of an inclusive and sustainable way forward for our economy.  We will be looking to make sure that it lives up to its commitments and that it supports the co-operative sector.