Edinburgh MPs call to clarify fate of ‘high quality’ Green Bank jobs

Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chairman of the Green Investment Bank
Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chairman of the Green Investment Bank
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Edinburgh MPs have demanded assurances from the UK government about dozens of high-quality jobs at the Edinburgh-based Green Investment Bank, which is in the process of being privatised.

Fears have been raised for 55 staff at the publicly-owned bank, which was founded in 2012 to invest in green energy projects.

Critics have claimed that an Australian investment firm, Macquarie is poised to buy the bank and is preparing to “asset strip” its most profitable projects, making its future uncertain.

There was further confusion at the weekend when press reports suggested the sale could be cancelled, with the government floating the bank on the stock exchange instead.

In a debate at Westminster, Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson called for clarity over the bank’s future and insisted that top-level jobs at the bank had to stay in the Capital.

Joined by Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry, whose constituency includes the bank’s Morrison Street HQ, Mrs Thomson suggested the government was following a strategy of “if it isn’t screwed down, sell it”.

UK climate change minister Nick Hurd said the government was considering a bid from a private company, but insisted he could not give any more details before the deal was decided.

Mrs Thomson accused the minister of a “ridiculous pretence” in refusing to update MPs on the bank’s fate.

“The jobs associated with these functions tend to be higher quality, and I’ll be monitoring closely not only that jobs will be maintained, but that the number will grow, and that the quality will be maintained going forward,” she said.

Mrs Thomson added: “It is the UK taxpayer who has provided the funds to get it where it is today, but it will not be the UK taxpayer that gets that return on investment.”

Mrs Thomson also asked Mr Hurd to reveal whether board members would receive financial rewards from the sale.

MPs from across the UK joined calls for clarity on the Green Investment Bank, with Labour’s Mary Creagh saying staff faced “uncertainty and anxiety” as the sale process drags on. The SNP, Labour and the Greens have all called for the sale to be paused.

Mr Hurd said there had been “a lot of assertion about the motives of any potential preferred bidder” and that the bank’s green mission and presence in Edinburgh would be protected.

“One of the things we are looking at most closely in terms of a proposal from a preferred bidder is their commitment... to people, particularly in Edinburgh,” he said.

He added that the bank’s “highly respected” chairman, Glasgow Commonwealth Games chief Lord Smith of Kelvin, would be closely involved in deciding on the sale. “I would like to reassure Scottish members of parliament on this, that we will be led by the judgement of Lord Smith, and the board,” Mr Hurd said.

paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk