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Green MSP slams council for unethical investments

By Laurence Ford

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Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie.
Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie.

Highland Council has been blasted by a Green MSP for investing millions of pounds from its pension fund in “unethical corporate giants” which are damaging the planet.

Highland and Islands member John Finnie says what is particularly disappointing is that the council appears to have not even discussed how climate change affects their investment strategy.

His comments follow the publication of a report by the environmental think tank Common Weal, UNISON Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

It indicates the investments are held through the Highland Pension Fund, which Highland Council administers, and should be invested for the long-term benefit of pension fund members.

They say oil, gas and coal companies are financially risky as government action on climate change threatens their long-term viability.

The report found that Highland Council invested £92 million in global fossil fuel stocks and have not invested any of their pension fund in renewable energy.

It also said the council offered no evidence of having discussed how climate change affects their investment strategy.

The authors claim the Highland Pension Fund invests £1.5 million in BP, who are drilling for oil in the Arctic and fracking, as well as having a history of campaigning against subsidies for renewable energy, and £2.3 million in BHP Billiton, the twelfth largest extractor of coal in the world, currently mining in the centre of the Borneo rainforest and facing prosecution over Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster.

The report found that, in contrast with other Scottish council pension funds, the Highland Pension Fund was not investing anything in renewable energy or social housing projects.

Mr Finnie said: “This report shows that Highland Council has invested over £90 million in fossil fuels, and at the same time has contributed absolutely nothing to renewable energy.

“Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is it appears not to have even discussed how climate change affects its investment strategy.

“I have long been campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels, tobacco and the arms trade, and I have written today to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body raising this issue once again.

“Public investments should benefit the common good, rather than generate profits for the unethical corporate giants that are destroying our planet.”

A Highland Council spokeswoman said the pension fund invested for best gain possible and no limits were placed on market sectors.

She said: “Our fund managers take environmental and other ethical factors into consideration when assessing an investment opportunity. The pension fund relies on our fund managers’ expertise to deliver optimal returns thereby minimising the financial contribution the council has to pay to the fund to support members’ pensions and making more money available to fund local services.”

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