THE Scottish Government and a significant proportion of Scots are firmly opposed to nuclear weapons. Yet new research shows that local government pension funds, along with universities and financial institutions, together invest billions of pounds in companies that are involved in their production, maintenance and delivery systems.

The new publication Working To Eliminate Nuclear Weapons Through Divestment: A Guide For Scotland, shows that nine local authority pension funds together hold shares worth nearly £300 million in 14 nuclear weapons companies. Lothian Pension Fund has the largest amount, £159m, invested in six such companies, including the world’s biggest weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Strathclyde’s has £89m invested in seven companies that undertake work related to Trident, plus four other major producers.

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The University of Glasgow holds shares worth £1.6m in 11 nuclear weapons companies, while the University of Strathclyde has £336,963 invested in BAE Systems, which produces key components for the arsenals of the UK, the US and France and is constructing Britain’s four new nuclear-armed “Dreadnought” submarines at the cost of £41 billion.

In 2015, it was revealed that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme had £3m invested in arms, tobacco and fossil fuel, including £244,517 in Rolls Royce – a firm involved in the development and maintenance of Britain’s current fleet of nuclear-armed Vanguard class submarines. The company will also supply the nuclear reactors for the new Dreadnought submarines. In March 2018, a poll found that nearly three-quarters of Scots believe that the fund should divest from arms, tobacco and fossil fuel companies but the fund is yet to make such a commitment.

The guide also draws on information from the annual global Don’t Bank On The Bomb Report which shows that RBS Group, Standard Life Aberdeen and Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Bank of Scotland, together made £4.7bn available to nuclear weapons producers in the form of loans, shareholdings and the underwriting of bond issuances between 2014 and 2017.

These investors are helping to fuel a new nuclear arms race which threatens our very survival. Britain’s taxpayers are set to spend £205bn on the Trident successor programme and Theresa May has said that she is prepared to personally authorise a nuclear strike that could potentially kill a hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Any use of nuclear weapons also has devastating environmental consequences. Studies have shown that even a “limited” nuclear war using as few as 100 nuclear weapons would impact the global climate, destroy ecosystems and precipitate widespread famine.

The decision to invest in nuclear weapons is out of step with Scottish opinion and the international community. In July 2017, 122 nations adopted the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which outlaws the testing, possession, acquisition and use of nuclear weapons. Parties also agree not to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in” a prohibited activity and this provision is widely understood to apply to the financing of nuclear weapons. Nicola Sturgeon has signed a parliamentary pledge in support, as have a majority of MSPs and Scottish MPs.

The successful negotiation of the treaty has given enormous momentum to the global movement for nuclear disarmament. The stigma attached to nuclear weapons is growing and states are facing increasing pressure. Advocating for divestment gives us another way to challenge this reliance by targeting the companies that produce nuclear weapons through their investors. Through this, we can cut off funding for the companies that work on nuclear weapons programmes. This will give those companies an incentive to stop producing nuclear weapons and make it harder for states to maintain their nuclear arsenals.

The guide explains how Scots with a bank account or pension fund can play a key part in the campaign. It also explains how to approach local councillors and MSPs about pension schemes.

Change is already happening at an international level. Since the treaty was signed, 30 financial institutions have ceased investing in nuclear weapons. It’s now time for the policies of Scottish banks, pension funds and public bodies to reflect the values of people in Scotland and respect the will of the international community.

It’s time for Scotland to stop funding the end of the world.

Linda Pearson is a member of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland network