EQUINOR is a Norwegian multinational energy company with its headquarters in the city of Stavanger, which is smaller than Dundee. From there it operates in 36 countries around the world and in 2017 made revenues of just over $61 billion from assets worth more than $110bn.

It describes its own purpose like this: “Since 1972 we have been pushing the boundaries of imagination and technology, solving challenges in the oil and gas industry. That quest has taken us to greater depths, deeper waters and new frontiers.” Impressive isn’t it?

It goes on: “Our industry is experiencing fundamental challenges. From climate change and geopolitics to the energy markets, we are facing new realities. Some see them as threats. In Equinor, we believe our job is to turn them into opportunities.

“That’s why we’re looking for new ways to utilise our expertise in the energy industry, exploring opportunities in new energy as well as driving innovation in oil and gas around the world. We know that the future has to be low carbon. Our ambition is to be the world’s most carbon-efficient oil and gas producer, as well as driving innovation in offshore wind and renewables”.

Hard to imagine a more positive and purposeful statement from any energy company anywhere.

No wonder then that the company has attracted investment from the most advanced and powerful investors in the world. Its third largest shareholder is Blackrock and its fourth Fidelity. US-based, these are the first and sixth largest asset management companies in the world. So, as a commercial investment proposition that is performing and well run, it would appear to be an outstanding going concern with an excellent investment case in a turbulent world.

However, what makes it relatively unusual to British eyes at least is that its largest shareholder, with a whopping 67%, is the Government of Norway. Its second, with just over 3% is Folketrygdfondet, the smaller part of the Norwegian Pension (oil) fund.

Put another way, the people of Norway have a direct stake in 70% of the company that yielded them more than $2bn dollars in dividend income last year alone. Its market value is $75bn, which would nudge it into the FTSE 10 biggest companies in the UK, just ahead of Unilever. Not bad for a company headquartered in a city smaller than Dundee.

It also means the Norwegian people’s investment is currently worth around £40bn. And that is just for the company formerly known as Statoil.

Don’t forget the investments of Folketrygdfondet and its much larger global pension fund partner (which is entirely invested abroad) are currently valued at more than $1 trillion. In 2017 it grew by $131bn on the back of booming global equity markets, which it owns more than one in every hundred shares in.

In results just published, the market reversals of 2018 saw it fall by 6.1% but was still ahead over the two years.

Controversy is raging in Norway at present on plans to withdraw more than 3% of its value per year. What a good debate that would be to have.

I DON’T don’t believe that North Sea oil moves a single vote. As an issue it has been so through the political wringer that the public is now inured to the arguments. Entrenched positions are endorsed and encamped and few others are listening.

The grand lies were bought: oil wasn’t ever going to last, what was there wasn’t much, if it was real it would be too much for a small country like Scotland to handle, best to leave it be, shut your mouth and your mind and move on. And anyway, you are subsidised, your post-industrial decline is irreversible and the social impact unsolveable.

That is the sad truth of it. Re-reading the report from the brilliant mind of Professor Gavin McCrone published by The National yesterday brought home so much of that. Plenty of voices at all levels across the UK were making the point that in contrast to Norway, the UK was gearing up for a policy and stewardship failure as bad as any economic decision of the past 100 years.

READ MORE: This is what Westminster doesn't want you to read: The McCrone Report in full

And so it has proved on every single level. As the story of both Equinor and the Norwegian Pension funds show, small countries can succeed on a global scale if they adopt imaginative policies of enlightened self-interest for the long term. This also means clear-headed stewardship and commercial focus in the long-term interest of the taxpayer.

What they do not demonstrate is that using state investments as a tool of partisanship and short-term expediency makes sense. There is a long history of where that went wrong all around the world.

But it does rather suggest that it is possible to pursue the national economic interest while also being attractive enough an investment proposition to attract the most substantial private investors in the world. Equinor proves that.

So, if we start from that proposition and open our minds to the possibilities, it makes for interesting policy discussion. The average tenure of an investor in the US stock market in 2016 was just over eight months. Many propositions need far longer commitment.

Properly set up and managed with good governance and a focus on commercial returns, it is perfectly possible for the public interest to align with that of private investors, especially over the long term.

This is especially true where risk-bearing equity investment from the government can help persuade private capital into propositions it might not otherwise wish to go with, such as innovative areas, smaller and riskier propositions or very long-term bets like energy diversification. That, after all, is the core idea behind the National Investment Bank.

It can also allow the state to participate in the benefits of any private investment in publicly determined assets such as a licence to extract finite resources, but not restricted to that.

Many other European countries actively invest in their major companies in infrastructure, transport, energy and manufacturing. Where this becomes a creature of politics and the producer it tends to fail. Where it is long term, commercially focused and in the interests of the consumer and public, the success rate is far higher, as Equinor helpfully demonstrates.

It is a very significant regret, and not just to Scotland, that the UK has made such a pitiful steward of the windfall of North Sea oil and therefore the self-interest of us all. We can’t get that back, but we can learn the lessons. Translating those lessons into future opportunities is one of the most exciting policy challenges we stand to inherit. Thinking caps on.