John urges council chiefs to invest pension funds in affordable homes

John Finnie speaking at an Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
John speaking at an Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
John Finnie has written to the Chief Executives of the six Highlands and Islands local authorities, urging them to follow the lead of Falkirk Council by investing a portion of their pension funds in building social and affordable housing.

John has also lodged a Parliamentary Question asking that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Fund – the pension fund for MSPs – follow Falkirk Council’s example.

Falkirk’s Local Government Pension Scheme Fund has invested £30 million in the Housing Fund for Scotland, managed by Hearthstone Investments. The Falkirk investment is expected to fund the construction of over 300 affordable homes, and the Fund aims to raise a total of £150 million and build over 1,000 new homes.

John has been campaigning to divest public sector pension funds from destructive industries like fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco, and encourage socially useful investments like affordable housing and renewable energy. He has criticised the trustees of the MSPs’ Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme for refusing to take action on unethical investments, and recently supported Edinburgh University students in their protest against the university’s investments in fossil fuels.

John said:

“Public authorities invest billions of pounds in pension funds, and that money could and should be helping to fund the investment we need in everything from affordable homes to clean energy. Our pension funds can do good for society as well as growing strongly to provide for our retirement.

“The dedicated public servants who pay into council pensions aren’t just numbers on a screen. They’re real people who need homes, schools, hospitals, a healthy environment and jobs for their families. It makes no sense to invest their money in things which undermine those needs when it could be helping to fulfil them.

“I believe most people – especially people who have chosen a career in public service – don’t want to be bankrolling oil companies, the arms industry and Big Tobacco. Falkirk’s investment proves there are alternatives; I hope other councils and the Scottish Parliament are paying attention.”

John’s letters to the Chief Executives of Highlands Council, Argyll & Bute Council, Moray Council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar read:

Dear Chief Executive

Can I commend to you the approach taken by Falkirk Council which has invested £30M of its pension fund into Hearthstone Investments Housing Fund for Scotland. The Housing Fund for Scotland will help provide for more affordable housing across Scotland.

I believe that such investments which aim to provide a real community benefit ought to make up an increasing share of our public pensions, encouraging moves away from the investments such as tobacco and fossil fuels which damage our health and our environment and the arms which causes so much devastation in communities abroad.

I would be grateful if you would examine the example of Falkirk and consider investing the some of the Council’s Pension Fund in a similar manner.

Kind regards,

John Finnie MSP