Divest¦Reinvest: Scottish Council Pensions for a future worth living in

Ben Wray

Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Unison Scotland paper shows billions could be accessed for socially and environmentally useful investment projects

SCOTTISH Pension funds hold a £1.7bn stake in fossil fuel companies driving unsustainable carbon emissions, money that could be re-invested into green energy and housing while still securing solid financial returns, a new report has argued.

‘Divest¦Reinvest: Scottish Council Pensions for a Future Worth Living In’ is published by Common Weal, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Unison Scotland and can be accessed in full here.

Key points in the report include:

– Scotland’s councils continue to invest in the companies most responsible for climate change, holding a £1,683 million stake in fossil fuel companies through their pension funds.

– Only three councils were found to be actively investing in socially and environmentally beneficial projects. The Strathclyde, Falkirk and Lothian Pension Funds invest a combined £234 million in renewable energy and social housing. Although encouraging, this represents just 0.7% of the Scotland-wide scheme’s value.

– Scotland’s local councils run the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme, a £35.4 billion pension scheme with 505,769 members. The scheme’s advisory board estimates one in five of the population have a financial interest in the fund.

– Eight universities and churches in Scotland have made a commitment to cut their investments in fossil fuels along with five pension funds elsewhere in the UK.

– A public commitment to divest, such as that made by the London Borough of Waltham Forest or the University of Glasgow, limits exposure to risks and promotes the wider action on climate change we need to bring about a sustainable economy. Reinvesting in social housing and renewable energy will also help build sustainable local economies here in Scotland. This is something councils can do right now, within their existing structures.

The report, part of the Reinvest Scotland campaign, comes ahead of local elections in May, where the issue of jobs and sustainable local investment should be high up the agenda. Reinvest Scotland will be campaigning to convince council election candidates and pension fund managers to change their investment strategies.