John asks Highland Council to stop bankrolling Big Tobacco

John Finnie speaking at the Edinburgh University building occupied by students in protest at fossil fuel investments
John Finnie speaking at a protest by students opposed to Edinburgh University’s fossil fuel investments
A Press and Journal investigation has found that British American Tobacco is the second-biggest equity holding in Highland Council’s pension scheme. The scheme increased its investment in the tobacco giant last year from £12.6 million to £15.2 million.

John Finnie has been campaigning to persuade pension schemes – including the Scottish Parliament’s own scheme – to stop bankrolling the tobacco, weapons and fossil fuel industries and direct their investment into more socially useful activities. He urged the Highland Council scheme to dump its tobacco shares:

“The Highland Council pension scheme manages one and a half billion pounds that could be providing a secure future for employees while investing in work that benefits society. Instead they are choosing to bankroll an industry which kills over 10,000 Scots every year.

“I don’t believe Council employees, who have chosen a career working for the wellbeing of the Highland community, want their retirement to rely on the profits of Big Tobacco.

“Ethical investments which avoid supporting harmful industries perform just as well for savers without profiting from suffering.

“And schemes like the Housing Fund for Scotland allow pension funds to invest directly in the homes and jobs Scotland needs – an opportunity Falkirk Council has already taken up.

“I’m asking Highland Council’s pension fund to stop bankrolling Big Tobacco, Big Oil and the arms industry, and build a secure future for its members on investments that will help make a better world for them to retire into.”

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.

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.”