In September 2018 the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland (DBOTB Scotland) campaign group published a guide for divestment from nuclear weapons entitled ‘Stop Funding the End of the World: Working to eliminate nuclear weapons through divestment – A Guide for Scotland’, written by Linda Pearson.
The guide was launched as part of the Nae Nukes international series of events in Scotland including a march and demonstration at Faslane in September 2018.
The guide is intended as a resource for those who want to get involved in encouraging Scottish institutions to divestment from nuclear weapons. In practical terms, the aim of the divestment movement is to persuade Scottish companies and organisations to stop providing financial support in the form of loans and investments to companies who are involved in the production of nuclear weapons, which will in turn put pressure on those companies to halt production. Divestment has been shown to work in the case of cluster munitions.
Why Divest from the Bomb?
Organisations that finance nuclear weapons producers are backing war over peace, as the success of their investments relies on the continuation of conflict and heightened tensions in international politics. The risk to our survival posed by nuclear weapons is demonstrated by their sheer number and the probability of catastrophic atmospheric changes in the event of even a small percentage of those weapons being used. The only way to ensure the survival of our species and environment is to totally eliminate them.
Nuclear weapons will be illegal under international humanitarian law when the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) comes into force. It is widely accepted that organisations who financially support nuclear weapons producers will find themselves on the wrong side of international law.
Investing in nuclear weapons producers is out of step with public opinion in Scotland which was against Trident renewal, and with the position of the Scottish government, which is firmly opposed to nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Weapons: Producers in Scotland
Several companies that have bases and factories in Scotland such as Thales and BAE Systems are ranked in the top twenty nuclear weapons producers in the world. A majority of the producers featured on the top twenty list have benefited from Scottish funding whether through loans or investment.
Government Pension Schemes are Investing in the Bomb
The Scottish local government pension scheme (LGPS) is the largest public pension scheme in Scotland, with over half a million members and £42 billion in assets. The fund is administered by pension committees in 11 fund administering authorities. Information drawn from the authorities’ websites and FOI requests shows that the LGPS holds shares worth approximately £294 million in 14 major nuclear weapons producers. A detailed breakdown of investments is included in the full guide.
The pensions of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are managed by the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme. In 2014 a response to a question to the Scottish parliamentary corporate body by Greens MSP John Finnie revealed that 4% of the Scottish parliamentary pension scheme fund was invested in arms companies.
Recent analysis by The Ferret and CommonSpace showed that the fund had £175,495 invested in Rolls Royce – a significant contributor to the British nuclear weapons programme. This investment goes against the avowed principles of both the Scottish government and the majority of MSPs who have been vehement in their opposition to Trident renewal.
Other Scottish public bodies invest in nuclear weapons too
The guide also looks at the financial investments of Scottish universities. Most notably the University of Glasgow holds over £1.6 million worth of shares in eleven nuclear weapons producers while the University of Strathclyde holds shares worth £336,963 in BAE Systems.
Breakdowns of the investments and public policies of other Scottish universities can be found in the guide.
There are a number of Scottish financial institutions (FIs) financing nuclear weapons. Two Scottish FIs feature in the international Don’t Bank on the Bomb hall of shame: RBS group and Standard Life Aberdeen who between them made over £2.8 billion available to fifteen of the top twenty nuclear weapons producers between 2014 and 2017. Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Bank of Scotland and has a registered headquarters in Edinburgh, made £1.9 billion available to twelve of the top twenty companies during this period. Again, full details of these institutions’ investments can be found in the guide.
Divestment is possible!
The Guide recaps divestment campaign successes and explains how the strategy can be applied to nuclear weapons.
What people can do:
The key aims of the nuclear weapons divestment movement and what steps we can take to achieve these are outlined in the Guide, but can be summarised as follows:
- Contact your bank. Research your bank in the guide and find out about their policies toward investing in nuclear weapons producers. Then contact them and take action as the guide suggests. This is a key part of persuading financial institutions to adopt comprehensive policies prohibiting financial involvement with nuclear weapons producers and to divest from nuclear weapons producers.
- Research whether your own pension fund is invested in nuclear weapons producers and write to them asking them to divest. Reaching out to them to express your concerns will put pressure on these funds to divest from nuclear weapons.
- Speak to your local councillor. You can impact your Local Government Pension Scheme’s investments.
- Write to your MSP if you are in Scotland and ask them to lobby the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Fund to divest from nuclear weapons.
- Write to you MP and ask them what their pension fund is invested in and whether it invests in nuclear or other arms. It is already known that the pension funds of MPs invest in fossil fuels and tobacco, and there are existing calls for divestment.
Please let the DBOTB Scotland group know what you are doing and about any replies you receive to letters. Hopefully there will be more DBOTB campaign groups in the rest of the UK in the near future. If you have questions about the campaign or want to start your own local DBOTB campaigning group and want more information you can contact us by email: [email protected]
The core DBOTB Scotland group is comprised of Linda Pearson (Edinburgh CND), Dr Guy Johnson and Dr Michael Orgel (Medact Scotland), Arthur West (chair Scottish CND) and Brian Larkin (Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre).