A SCOTTISH pension fund worth almost £28 billion and covering staff across a wide range of public bodies and local authorities has been urged to divest a multi-million pound investment in a state-owned Russian bank.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund’s (SPF) 2021 asset list, published at the end of September, showed that it had holdings worth £16.4 million with Sberbank. This was from a total value of £27.907bn.

Sberbank, a bank with which around half of the Russian population has an account, is owned by the Kremlin through a “National Wealth Fund”.

However, a spokesperson for the SPF said that while that listing was correct at the time of publication, the fund’s holdings with Sberbank were last week worth closer to £2.1m, and could have dropped still further since then.

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Green MSP Ross Greer called on the pension fund to fully divest from Sberbank “immediately”.

He said: “I struggle to see why the SPF has holdings in Sberbank in the first place. But, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine it is clearly inappropriate for that to remain the case.

“Many public sector pension funds have resisted ethical investment policies in recent years but I’m sure that the workers whose pension pot this is will want this urgently addressed, and Sberbank immediately divested from.”

The fund works with 164 different employers, according to its most recent annual report from March 2021.

The National: Susan Aitken leads Glasgow Council, a committee of which has ultimate decision-making power for the SPFSusan Aitken leads Glasgow Council, a committee of which has ultimate decision-making power for the SPF

These include local government authorities such as the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Glasgow City Council, and Inverclyde Council, universities such as Glasgow Caledonian and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and government bodies such as Creative Scotland, Sport Scotland, and the Highland and Islands Enterprise Company Ltd.

Glasgow City Council’s Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee is ultimately the main decision-making body for the fund. However, a spokesperson said that Edinburgh-based investment firm Baillie Gifford managed the Sberbank portfolio.

That firm is also in control of the Scottish Parliament pension fund which has faced calls to divest around £300,000 from Sberbank.

The SPF further said it was in discussions with advisers and investment managers at Baillie Gifford about the Sberbank holdings.

A spokesperson for the SPF said: “We do have some very limited exposure, which we are currently discussing with investment managers and advisers.”

Hanzala Malik, the chair of the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC), which uses the SPF, told The National this was the right step to be taking.

Malik said that while he did not want to see pensions money used to support a regime which has invaded another country, he also “could not face it” if calls to divest from Russian banks put people’s pensions at risk.

Telling The National that the WSREC would like to see the funds divested from Sberbank, he said it was important this was handled by experts in a timely manner.