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Election / Greens want to use portion of SIC reserves to create local investment bank

Proposal would see affordable loans offered to small businesses

THE SHETLAND Greens have announced a proposal to create a local investment bank using a minimum of £1 in every £6 from the SIC’s oil reserves to help diversify the islands’ economy.

The party will launch its manifesto for the forthcoming SIC elections next week, and has put forward a policy that – if put into practice – would amount to a radical overhaul of the local authority’s investment strategy.  

Shetland Islands Council currently has more than £1 billion between its reserves and pension fund invested on the international stock market. 

Shetland Greens’ Debra Nicolson.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Greens said they would like to see “at least” 15 per cent of the reserves – which at their current value would equate to over £150 million – invested locally by the end of the next council term in 2027.

During the early 2000s the local authority’s economic development unit made a series of high-profile investments in industries including seafood, several of which were mired in controversy, but more recently its business grants and loans have tended to be relatively small-scale. 

The Greens propose creating a Shetland Investment Bank offering loans at “affordable rates of interest” in the hope of sparking the development of community-owned renewable energy projects and supporting small businesses to help diversify the local economy. 

They also suggest that larger loans from the bank could part-finance fixed links to Yell, Unst and Whalsay. 

The Greens have so far announced three candidates – Alex Armitage in Shetland South, Debra Nicolson in Shetland West and Martin Randall in Shetland Central. 

Armitage, who was joined by Green MSP Ariane Burgess on the campaign trail last weekend, said the global economy was “in upheaval with conflict and is threatened by climate breakdown” with many economists predicting a forthcoming recession. 

“We have the opportunity to make more secure investments in Shetland – and that’s exactly what we should be doing with our reserves,” Armitage said.  

Nicolson said she welcomed confirmation from SIC finance manager Jamie Manson earlier this month that fund managers had been instructed to explore ways in which the council could extricate itself from over £1.4 million-worth of investments in Russian “entities”.

She said that move was “quite right” and argued that “we should also be divesting our money from arms companies and fossil fuel companies. We should not be complicit in fuelling climate change and conflict around the world – particularly when we could be investing in Shetland”.

Randall described the investment bank as “an essential starting block for creating a circular economy in Shetland. We are fortunate to have so much money in our reserves – we should now use it to create a thriving and diverse local economy that meets our needs and enriches our communities.”