THOUSANDS of Scotland’s teachers, social workers and other council employees could be at risk of losing their pension pots due to massive investments in “dirty energy”, according to environmental campaigners.
New data reveals Scottish local government pensions investments plough £1.7 billion into oil, coal and gas companies.
The cash is part of £14 billion that is invested in fossil fuels by 4.6 million local government workers across the UK through their pension schemes.
Strathclyde has the largest holdings in Scotland, with £752 million of fossil fuel stocks. Only Greater Manchester has more, with a massive £1.3 billion of assets in the largest energy firms.
But environmentalists claim international action to battle climate change will leave fossil fuel investments worthless, creating a “carbon bubble” that will threaten funds exposed to them.
They say pension money should be put into projects that benefit the wider community while providing a secure return. The figures were revealed after campaign groups including Friends of the Earth (FoE) analysed data acquired through freedom of information requests, detailing the assets held in the 101 pension schemes covering the UK’s 418 councils.
Ric Lander, the charity’s finance campaigner in Scotland, said: “Communities around the world are calling for an end to the environmental destruction that comes with coal mining, fracking and deep-sea drilling. Our pension money shouldn’t be fuelling this damage.”
He added: “It is time for investors to listen to the call to invest in our future.”
Unison Scotland’s Dave Watson said councils should consider their climate change responsibilities when making investment decisions.
“Divesting from fossil fuels is the prudent way for councils to meet both their fiduciary duty to members and their public law duties,” he said.
Strathclyde Pension Fund member Kirsty Noble said: “These investments are increasingly risky and the local authority funds seem to be overexposed to this risk.”
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said a divestment strategy had been considered but members had backed active investment as a way of influencing environmental performance.
Any pension fund must “carefully consider risk in relation to each of its investments and also its wider portfolio”, he said.
The fund recently announced a £10m investment in small-scale renewables. Scottish organisations that have begun divesting include the University of Glasgow and United Reform Church.
North East: £124,854,000
Dumfries and Galloway: £49,817,200
Scottish Borders: £28,217,958
Shetland Islands: £26,778,255
Orkney Islands: £8,077,956