Another day. Another broken promise from Westminster. I had been expecting news like this since the referendum last September but I’ve been frankly shocked by the rate at which they’ve been coming and where the hammer-blows have been falling.
Today it was announced that the Government will sell off the Green Investment Bank. The bank, capitalised with some £3 billion of taxpayers money, was set up in 2012 with the mandate for providing investment and incentive for renewable schemes across the UK. Its headquarters were located in Edinburgh in a bid, as it was reported at the time, to attempt to head off the push for Scottish Independence. Indeed, even just the week before the referendum dire warnings were uttered about the potential of Scotland “losing” the bank if we voted Yes (The news that the bank hadn’t actually been investing more than a token amount within Scotland in its first year or so was, of course, conveniently placed to the side).
Instead, now that we’ve “safely” voted No, the bank is to have up to 70% of its shares sold off to private interests for somewhere around £1.4 billion, under half of its initial capitalisation, at a time when it has just announced that it has become profitable.
Of course it’s not all just about the outright betrayal of Scottish voters. In this move, as well as last week’s scrapping of onshore wind incentives, David Cameron and his new Tory majority government are flexing their ideological muscles. Gone utterly is their “Greenest Government Ever“. To quote Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie on the topic today:
“The sell-off of the Green Investment Bank proves that David Cameron’s comment about wanting to ‘cut the green crap’ has now become a full-blown mantra for a right-wing Government determined to wreck our renewable energy opportunities. The bank was a half-hearted effort by the Tory-Libdem Coalition, with limited powers and funding. Rather than taking another backward step we need governments to go further and faster on developing new energy sources and cleaner industries as the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground becomes ever more urgent.”
Added to this is the call from Green Party of England and Wales MP Caroline Lucas:
“The Government’s rash and irresponsible plan to sell off a large chunk of the Green Investment Bank calls into question their commitment to investing in a low carbon economy.
“At precisely the time when we should be leading the world in the fight against climate change our Government appears to be in retreat. The Government should keep at least a majority stake in the Green Investment Bank to ensure investor confidence is upheld and the commitment to low-carbon lending remains.”
This is just another string of sell-offs by the Government of profitable parts of public service at a substantial loss to the taxpayer (joining such company as the East Coast Mail Line, The Channel Tunnel, The Royal Mail and many of the banks bailed out in 2008). It is purely an ideological move by the Tories to get the Government out of the business of owning any kind of body capable of serving the public.
I have to wonder what they think the endgame is. Just what do they want Tory Britain to look like?
And is there a place in it for us on the ground?