Short comment requested by Newsnet Scotland on today's UK budget:
The most notable element of the Budget for me was the announcment of a green investment bank, able to invest in new sustainable technologies and businesses where returns are too risky for the open markets. It's been long called for - and it was clearly a prize demanded by the Liberal Democrats as a price of Coalition. But it's a weak entity: access to £3billion funds seems considerable, but compared to the kind of infrastructure revolution that a low-carbon economy and society needs, it's a very small budget indeed (and the bank won't be able to borrow for five years). Couldn't a few of the government's largely nationalised banks - Northern Rock and RBS - be largely directed towards building this infrastructure, at a far greater scale than this institution could manage?
I also wonder whether the blizzard of measures aimed at supporting start-up business creation, and external investment from foreign business, undercuts their own aim to be the "most green government ever". To what extent does a "bonfire of regulations" imply exempting start-up enterprises from detailed considerations of the energy resources they're putting through their services and products? The world's first price floor for carbon sounds like a step in the right direction, in making us realise the real cost of dirty energy generation - but it's the nuclear industry in the UK who welcome this most http://ind.pn/gETI6e, as it will make their economic case much stronger. And of course, Britain's "hard-pressed families" will benefit from their petrol-duty being cut, but it does the opposite of discouraging carbon-intensive car usage.
I noted at the end how much Osborne is returning to the enterprise fundamentals of heyday Thatcherism - the "march of the makers", coming through new industrial and academic development zones, that will deliver the perpetually sought-for "growth". But these climate-critical days, growth simply can't be incanted like a magic spell. "Makers" aren't just smart young boys coming up with Google-competitors in Shoreditch or Oxford. These days, below the to-and-fro of despatch boxes, I look to governments who get the whole challenge of moving towards environmentally-sustainable societies (which I think, incidentally, the Scottish government does get) . Perhaps no surprise that the Coalition didn't join up the dots any better than expected.