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Revealed: the councils using your pension cash to invest in fossil fuels

This news post is about 7 years old

Campaigners say pensions are at risk from unethical investments - to the tune of £1.7bn

Scottish councils are risking pension funds by investing heavily in the companies most responsible for climate change.

According to a new report published by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Common Weal, and Unison Scots councils invest in companies such including BP and BHP Billiton – two of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world.

In contrast the report found that only three councils were found to be actively investing in socially and environmentally beneficial infrastructure.

The Strathclyde, Falkirk and Lothian Pension Funds invest a combined £234 million in renewable energy and social housing.

Although encouraging, this represents just 0.7% of the Scotland-wide scheme’s value.

Ric Lander, divestment campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland and report author said: "Council pension funds have huge clout and can shape our future. It's time they used this power to invest in a future worth living in.

Fossil fuel investments by council pension fund:
Strathclyde: £889.8m
Tayside: £131.1m
North East: £124.1m
Falkirk: £119.6m
Lothian: £104.3m
Highland: £92.3m
Fife: £89.6m
Dumfries & Galloway: £70.5m
Shetland: £30.8m
Scottish Borders: £23.4m
Orkney: £8.2m
TOTAL: £1,683.3m

“Divesting from fossil fuels is an opportunity to contribute to a brighter future and put money back into local economies. That would be good news for fund members and good news for all of us.”

“With Scotland going to the polls for local elections in May we want to see prospective councillors getting serious about responsible investment.

“Only three councils have any investments in social housing and renewable energy in Scotland despite strong returns available and many local benefits of these schemes. The majority of council pensions are invested in stocks and shares, which bring few tangible local benefits.”

Unison's Scottish Organiser Dave Watson commented: "Too many of our pension funds are investing in obsolete technologies and risking our members hard earned contributions. The future of energy is green, and it is within sight. Our pension funds need to be part of the future, not the past."

Too many of our pension funds are investing in obsolete technologies - Dave Watson

Some 200 members of the pension scheme have signed a petition calling for divestment from fossil fuels. “What is the point in saving for a future that my pension money is helping to destroy? I want to, and believe I can invest in a future that invests in the planet,” said Jude Ferguson, a Lothian Pension Fund member.

Across the world 701 institutions, with total investments valued at $5.5 trillion USD, have committed to divest from fossil fuels, according to the report.

In Scotland the Universities of Glasgow, Abertay, West of Scotland and Queen Margaret, along with the United Reform Church, have fully committed to divestment in their investment portfolios, whille the Church of Scotland, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities have made partial commitments.