Banking has lost its way, forgetting that it should be serving its customers and not exploiting them. But it’s not just the way banks operate, it’s whether people can even get access to proper banking with more and more branches closing. Common Weal believes both can be fixed with a mutually-owned People’s Bank. How this would be done is explained in the report Better Banking which proposes using an existing ‘bank in a box’ model. This is a preprepared model for a banking network which would initially be set up by government but would then be passed into the ownership of its customers. It has a full business plan and it would be able to open branches (or mini-branches via a ‘banking pod’ model) in any community where enough people joined the bank. It is particularly designed not to make profit from customers and to emphasise long-term, trusting relationships. These are particularly important to small businesses.
The other big banking policy Common Weal published was for a Scottish National Investment Bank – and this has already happened. It was conceived of as a way of driving investment into big Scottish businesses and other projects with a public-good focus. It would emphasise mission-orientated investment to achieve social and environmental goals as well as economic ones and would specialise in providing the kind of long-term, patient investment based on trust that the commercial banking sector has not provided. We published two reports, the first making the case for the bank and the second setting out the technical detail of how that would work.
We’ve done a number of other pieces of work on banks and banking. There is more information on our work on a central bank for an independent Scotland in the Big Idea ‘Getting Scottish Independence Right’. But we also published a proposal for how Scotland could set up its own digital currency under independence. We also produced an important report on how Scotland could set up a publicly owned payment service (like the way you pay for things at tills using cards or your phone) which would both be reliable and safe (and not harvest your data) and would also create income to help fund public services.