THE Royal Bank of Scotland has unveiled a new £7 million programme to support projects which support entrepreneurship and tackle global warming.

 The RBS 300 Fund, which has been backed by the First Minister, will see £1m invested every year for the next seven years into projects and partnerships across the country in the run-up to the bank’s 300th anniversary in 2027.

It aims to support communities and organisations in three specific areas: climate change, financial capability and enterprise.

The first partnership to be announced is with Glasgow University’s John Smith Centre for Public Service. It involves 300 young people from across Scotland taking part in a 12-month programme designed to create employment opportunities, as well as helping to promote the importance of respectful, civilised disagreement.

The programme will include a weekend at RBS’s business school at Gogarburn, where an intensive programme of workshops and lectures from the country’s leading politicians, business leaders, public servants and journalists will be combined with opportunities to network and socialise.

Further announcements of partnerships supported by the 300 Fund will follow over the coming months.

Nicola Sturgeon hailed the programme’s support for young people. “The passion and enthusiasm that we have seen in recent years from the younger generation for politics and vital issues like climate change – subjects previously deemed to be too complex or uninteresting for them to engage with – has been hugely inspiring," she said.

“I am proud that our young people have a desire to make the world we live in a better place and are willing to take action, whether that is engaging politically or with specific campaigns close to their hearts.

“This programme is an exciting new way for young people to engage with the world they live in, to broaden their understanding of public service and business and meet others with similar interests but not necessarily similar viewpoints. It is a great opportunity to promote civilised and evidence-led debate, something which we should all encourage more of to help build the young leaders of the future.”

Chair of the RBS board, Malcolm Buchanan, said the programme’s ethos draws on the principles of Scottish Enlightenment figures. He commented: “With our 300th anniversary on the horizon we feel the time is right to launch the Royal Bank 300 Fund to help the Scottish economy face the challenges and opportunities ahead in areas such as climate change, enterprise and financial capability.

“Following in the footsteps of Scottish Enlightenment luminaries such as Adam Smith, James Hutton and Joseph Black – all of whom were born in the same decade that the RBS was founded – the Royal Bank 300 Fund is aimed at helping to identify and realise the potential of future game-changers in Scotland.”

The programme was launched as the latest RBS Purchasing Managers’ Index recorded a marginal drop in Scottish business activity index from 50.9 in November to 50.0 last month. Output for the sector stagnated during December as a value above 50 indicates growth while one below that represents contraction.

However, across the UK, Scotland was one of only two areas not to record a drop in private sector business as a whole. The other was London, which registered a modest increase.