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Scotland’s biggest public sector pension scheme under fire for £83m stake in arms manufacturers

Scotland’s largest local authority pension scheme has been criticised after it emerged it has investments worth £83 million in 11 of the 20 companies with the biggest global involvement in arms manufacture.

Scotland’s largest local authority pension scheme has been criticised after it emerged it has investments worth £83 million in 11 of the 20 companies with the biggest global involvement in arms manufacture.
The Glasgow City Council-administered Strathclyde Pension Fund has had shares worth £19.6 million, as of December last year, in the top two arms-producing and military services companies alone, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of Trident nuclear weapons, and Boeing.

The pension scheme, one of the biggest in the world with net assets of more than £13.9 billion, pays 70,000 pensioners and has a further 130,000 members either paying into the fund or waiting to retire from 12 local authorities including Glasgow from the former Strathclyde area, plus over 200 other large and small employers.

The value of the Top 20 arms firms investment has risen by £26 million in years to December, 2014 helped in part with the purchase of a new stake in UK-based Rolls Royce now worth £13.1 million.

Other firms being invested in included in the top 20 arms producers in terms of sales as compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, include Safran (£17.2 million), Honeywell (£16.4 million), United Technologies (£7.1 million) and Raytheon (£2.3 million) which has an arms manufacturing plant in Glenrothes.

Lockheed Martin also offers IT services and in 2013 took over a Scottish Government e-procurement contract worth £18.5m.

Pension schemes have previously been under scrutiny for investments in companies dealing in arms and tobacco.

In January, last year, it emerged more than £220 million was tied up in tobacco firms from Scots public sector pensions – including those behind Marlboro, Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike – despite guidelines that recommend ethical and social factors must be taken into account by Scots councils administering the funds.

Some £55 million was estimated to have been invested in the world’s 10 largest arms sellers who trade in high-explosive shells, rocket launchers, armoured tanks and F-16 fighter jets.

The figures obtained under freedom of information legislation showed only two councils that administer pension schemes, Dumfries and Galloway and Shetland, had no involvement in tobacco or companies selling arms.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said while it employs the staff and its committee tends to be made up of Glasgow-elected members, the SPF has its own committee structure and governance which is responsible for investment strategy. He said the council cannot make decisions for the fund.

He added: “The fund is a signatory to and active participant in the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment – and we have appointed independent monitors to ensure these principles are adhered to by our investment managers.

“We take our social responsibilities seriously and are recognised as a fund that is showing leadership both nationally and internationally in actively engaging with the companies in which we invest to challenge them to address risks and improve performance.”

Independent Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie, who has campaigned against the arms trade, believes change is required across the board.

“If there is any set of rules that says it is acceptable to be investing in these arms companies then we need to look at the rules,” he said. “The public look for moral leadership in the public sector and sadly that is not always obvious.”

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Glasgow City Council is meant to be committed to public welfare and the public good, and should not be investing in companies that directly profit from war and conflict around the world.

“The arms trade is a deadly and illegitimate industry and people across Glasgow will be shocked to find that the council is using their money to boost companies that arm dictators and human rights abusers.”

Jenny Graydon, chief executive of Glasgow Association for Mental Health, one of the participants in the pension scheme, called for a review of the investments.

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