Coronavirus: Banks asked to help struggling businesses

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Banks are being asked to find new ways to finance struggling business customers, taking on more responsibility to ensure they survive.

It’s the view of the advisory panel asked to develop a recovery plan for the economy by the Scottish government.

Chaired by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins, it reports later with a focus on unemployment, inequality and education.

Its recommendations include calls for action on investment in infrastructure

The 60-page report includes proposals that would affect regulation, changes to tax, the role of the voluntary sector and the threat to the arts.

BBC Scotland has seen some of the 25 recommendations, which call for:

  • A new agency that would hold the Scottish government’s equity stakes in companies it feels compelled to bail-out, because they are of strategic significance
  • A role for banks that goes beyond conventional lending to develop new financial devices aimed at strategically-important and viable client customers. This would place them in a form of financial “incubator” until the economy picks up again.
  • More flexibility In the financial arrangements for Holyrood, to help it invest and ensure the private sector as well as the public sector weathers the current storm. The review of the fiscal rules that determine the block grant from Westminster to Holyrood should be brought forward, the report will say.
  • The pace of investment in broadband and mobile telecoms should be stepped up, to support economic activity.

The report, titled “Scotland needs a robust, resilient and wellbeing economy” will be published the 12.30 coronavirus daily briefing in St Andrew’ s House.

The reference to wellbeing is in tune with the Scottish government’s intention of shifting to a measure of economic activity that captures a wider range of outcomes than the conventional economists’ approach to output.

The report will reflect this through its approach to deploying not only financial assets but also social, natural and human capital.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is thought to be preparing a stimulus package for the recovery of the UK economy, to be published in coming weeks, and going beyond the immediate pressure to handle the health, economic and educational crises.

In addition to Mr Higgins, other members of the advisory group are: Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, economist and principal of Glasgow University; Anna Vignoles, education professor at Cambridge University; Dame Sue Bruce, former council chief executive; Professor Dieter Helm, expert in environment economics at Oxford University; Professor John Kay, economist and businessman; Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress; Dame Julia Unwin, ex-chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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