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July 20th, 2016:

Highland Council accused of bankrolling killer industry over stake in tobacco trade

A COUNCIL has been accused of bankrolling an industry that kills more than 10,000 Scots every year after its pension fund upped its investments in the tobacco trade.

Highland Council, which promotes healthy living, has been accused of being hypocritical after making multi-million-pound investments in the tobacco industry.

The value of the pension fund’s investment in one of the world’s biggest tobacco funds increased last year.

The fund’s stake in British American Tobacco — producers of the Dunhill, Lucky Strike and Benson & Hedges brands — increased from £12.6 million to £15.15 million last year.

John Finnie, list MSP for Highlands and Islands for the Greens and a former Highland councillor, said:

“The scheme manages £1.5 billion that could provide a secure future for employees while investing in work that benefits society. Instead, it bankrolls an industry that kills over 10,000 Scots every year.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson said the pension fund has a legal obligation to best serve its beneficiaries.

Councillor David Alston, who chairs the council’s health board, said the legal requirements of the pension fund should be changed.

BAT eyes HUF 3 bln capacity investment

The Hungarian subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT) is planning to increase production capacity at its Hungarian plant in Pécs through an investment of HUF 3 billion, foreseen to create 200 new jobs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced yesterday.

BAT is eliminating certain capacities in Western Europe and is planning to move investment to Hungary, due to an overhaul of the company’s European production strategy, Hungarian news agency MTI reported.

Szijjártó said the headcount at the Pécs plant is foreseen to reach 800 as a result. Richard Widmann, CEO of BAT Central Europe, noted that the company has invested more than HUF 57 bln in the country since 1992, and its unit has become one of the biggest investors and employers here.

Szijjártó added that the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA) is currently in negotiations with seven other British companies planning to make further investments in Hungary. The minister noted that trade between the two countries was up by 15%, reaching €5 billion last year.