Councillors have renewed their calls for Scottish local authority pension funds to divest from companies that make nuclear weapons, following the fiftieth ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the nuclear ban treaty) today.
The treaty bans the development, production, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons and will now enter into force on 22 January 2021.
Research by the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland network2 shows that Scottish banks, pension funds and public bodies have over £6 billion invested in companies that make nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
Linda Pearson of the network said:
“When the nuclear ban treaty enters into force, these investors will be profiting from the production of weapons that are prohibited by international humanitarian law.
“These investments are simply unethical and as more and more states implement the provisions of the treaty, there’s a risk that they will become stranded assets.”
Scotland’s eleven local authority pension funds together hold shares worth over £300 million in nuclear weapons producers.
Lothian Pension Fund and Strathclyde Pension Fund’s investments account for two thirds of that total.
Three Scottish councils – Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire and East Ayrshire – have passed a resolution calling on Strathclyde Pension Fund to divest from nuclear weapons.
Renfrewshire councillor and Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland Vice Convenor, Audrey Doig, said:
“The nuclear ban treaty was negotiated because most of the world recognises the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose to people and planet.
“We should not be investing our pensions in weapons that have the power to kill thousands of civilians instantly, and the potential to alter the global climate if used in war.”
“Moreover, these investments present a financial risk to pension funds,” Doig continued.
“Companies that make banned weapons face damage to their reputation and their value, as we saw when cluster munitions were banned a few years ago.
“We therefore reiterate our call for Strathclyde Pension Fund to divest from nuclear weapons producers at the earliest opportunity.”
Edinburgh City Council passed a resolution in support of the nuclear ban treaty in June 2019 and Midlothian Council has passed a resolution in support of nuclear weapons divestment.
Edinburgh City Councillor Steve Burgess said:
“Edinburgh City councillors took an important step by supporting the nuclear ban treaty, but our pension fund still has over £100 million invested in nuclear weapons producers.
“Now that the treaty’s entry into force is imminent, it’s time for Lothian Pension Fund to align its policies with international law and exclude investment in companies that make these indiscriminate, inhumane weapons.”
Around 100 financial institutions have changed their policies around nuclear weapons since the nuclear ban treaty was adopted by 122 nations at the United Nations in New York in 2017.
“Clearly, an international norm against investment in nuclear weapons is being established and this will be strengthened when the treaty enters into force”, said Linda Pearson,
“Scotland’s support for nuclear disarmament is known throughout the international community and we believe that our financial choices should reflect that.”