John’s campaign against MSPs’ £3.2m bankrolling of fossil fuels, Big Tobacco and the arms trade

“MSPs’ pensions should not be fattened further at the expense of our planet or its residents’ health and well-being, and I am ashamed that the overwhelming majority of my colleagues seem relaxed to benefit personally from socially and environmentally destructive companies.”

— John Finnie MSP

John Finnie speaking from within the Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
John Finnie speaking from within the Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
In an exclusive in yesterday’s Sunday Herald, investigative journalist Rob Edwards of The Ferret revealed that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme, which invests the pension contributions of MSPs, holds assets of £3.2 million in dirty energy, tobacco and armaments.

Edwards was reporting on new analysis of the parliamentarians’ portfolio by Friends of the Earth Scotland, who found holdings in companies like the cigarette giant British American Tobacco, and the weapons systems firm Ultra Electronics which makes components for the US’s Predator and Reaper drones.

You can read the full story on the Herald website or on the Ferret site.

John has been campaigning for months to get the MSPs’ pension funds out of fossil fuels, tobacco and the arms trade, and invested instead in socially useful activities like developing clean energy.

You can read the story of John’s campaign so far, and see what you can do to help stop MSPs cash bankrolling climate change and war, on the Ethical Investment Campaign page.

John’s ethical investment campaign – the story so far

“There can hardly be a more nakedly selfish act than profiting off of the human suffering of climate change.”

— John Finnie MSP

John has been campaigning to get pension schemes and other investments – including the Scottish Parliament’s own pension fund – to divest from harmful industries like fossil fuels, tobacco and the arms trade, and invest instead in socially useful activities like developing clean energy.

We’ve created a new page on the website so you can keep track of the campaign as it develops. To see read the story so far, and see what you can do to help stop MSPs cash bankrolling climate change, visit the Ethical Investment Campaign page now.

Congratulations to Transition Black Isle

Transition Black Isle Million Miles logo

The Transition Black Isle group is celebrating the huge success of their Million Miles project, which has taken more than 1.3 million car-miles off the roads by promoting walking, cycling, public transport and carsharing.

John Finnie has lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament marking Transition Black Isle’s success, which has so far been supported by 12 other MSPs:

S4M-13283: Transition Black Isle Million Miles Project

That the Parliament congratulates Transition Black Isle on the success of its Million Miles project; understands that the initiative’s aim was to cut car use on the Black Isle by 1 million miles per year by encouraging increased usage of cycling, public transport and lift sharing; further understands that Transition Black Isle achieved what it considers this phenomenal target through the active participation of local people, including 471 events organised as part of the Million Miles project, which was attended by 5,369 people; believes that Transition Black Isle serves as a wonderful example to other community groups, encouraging a more sustainable travel model, and looks forward to its continued good work on the Black Isle.

Million Miles began in 2012 and aimed to help the Black Isle community cut their car use by 1%, or the equivalent of one million miles of driving. But the initiative outstripped its initial target by 30%, cutting 1,352,277 car miles, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 718 tonnes (CO2e) per year.

John said:

“Transition Black Isle deserve to be hugely proud of their achievement. Their work over the past three years has made travel around the Black Isle and beyond easier, cheaper, safer, healthier and more sustainable.

“This shows that our communities are more than capable of solving tough problems for themselves. If we put more money and power in the hands of local people – like the hugely successful Climate Challenge Fund that supported Transition Black Isle – I think we’ll continue to be impressed at what can be achieved.”

John joins Edinburgh students’ climate protest

"Occupied until Divestment" placard at Charles Stewart House, Edinburgh University
Photo: Edinburgh People and Planet
John has praised student climate activists who have occupied an Edinburgh University finance office over the University’s decision to continue investing in the coal and tar sands industries.

At the invitation of Edinburgh’s People and Planet group, John will be visiting the occupation and speaking to the campaigners this afternoon.

Edinburgh University’s top governing body, the University Court, voted unanimously last Tuesday (12 May) to reject calls to divest from the dirtiest fossil fuels. Over 30 students occupied Charles Stewart House, which houses the University’s finance department, the following day.

In October last year, Glasgow University became the first in Europe to divest from fossil fuels, withdrawing £18m of investments from the industry, after a student campaign that was also led by People and Planet activists.

John has been campaigning for divestment and ethical investment practices, including calling for investments in fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco to be dropped from the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme. [2]

Ahead of his visit to the University, John said:

“There can hardly be a more nakedly selfish act than profiting off of the human suffering of climate change.

“I am disgusted by the University bosses’ decision to keep on bankrolling the big oil and coal corporations that are knowingly destroying the very futures of the students the University exists to serve.

“These are companies like Shell, which, it was revealed yesterday, is operating based on a strategy that allows global average temperature to rise by 4°C – twice the level considered the maximum safe increase by scientists. Companies which, despite their huge profits, take more money in subsidies than the world’s governments spend on healthcare.

“The idea that these companies can be made benign by ‘engagement’ is utterly, and probably wilfully, naïve. Institutions who claim to care at all about the world they are shaping with their money need to stop supplying harmful industries with capital and instead put that money into the alternatives, like renewable energy, that have massive potential but are crying out for investment.

“I am optimistic about our chances, not least because of the courageous actions of the students I’ve met here today. As long as there are principled people willing to fight for our future, we have a chance of human welfare ultimately winning out over corporate profit.

“The campaign to get Edinburgh University out of the oil business is far from over, and neither is the fight for a safe climate.”

Peter McColl, a former Rector of Edinburgh University, policy director of the Common Weal think tank, and Scottish Greens candidate for Edinburgh East in the recent General Election, is joining John at the occupation today. He said:

“The great issues of our day are the environmental and economic crises. I’m hugely proud of the students occupying Edinburgh University, who are taking a vital stand to solve these crises.

“Now is the time to divest from fossil fuels. At a time when investment in clean energy technology like wind and solar power is vital we must invest in these technologies rather than the dirty fuels of the past. We need to develop ways to store the energy generated through these technologies. That also requires serious investment, but promises huge rewards. It’s an area where Scotland – including our universities – can lead the world, and end climate change’s destruction of people’s lives.”

MSPs’ pensions bankrolling fossil fuels, tobacco and the arms industry

John has called on Parliamentary authorities to remove investments in fossil fuels, tobacco and the arms industry from the MSPs’ pension fund, after it was revealed that almost one-tenth of the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme is invested in those three industries.

John challenged the investments in a question to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), the committee that runs the facilities and back-room function of the Parliament.

David Stewart MSP, answering on behalf of the SPCB, admitted that 4% of the pension fund was invested in oil and gas, 1% in oil and gas equipment and distribution, 2% in tobacco and 4% in the arms industry. He agreed to write to the Trustees of the fund, asking them to “consider the matter in much more detail”.

John said afterwards:

“I’m very grateful to Friends of the Earth Scotland for helping me investigate the background to this issue, and for all their work to encourage divestment from fossil fuels.

“It looks like rank hypocrisy when the Parliament claims to work for a healthy, sustainable and peaceful Scotland, but its money is going into bankrolling the very opposite.

“As Desmond Tutu has said, nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering of climate change. Nor should we benefit from the sale of weapons of war, or from the cigarettes that kill 13,000 Scots a year.

Glasgow University is leading the way in divesting from fossil fuels – the first university in Europe to do that – and I’m hugely proud of the Scottish student campaigners that made that happen.

“Now the Scottish Parliament should follow Glasgow’s example. I want an ethical investment policy that takes our money out of fossil fuels, tobacco and weapons, and puts it into socially useful activities like clean energy instead.”