Scotland politics

Plea over Scottish Parliament's fossil fuel pensions

air pollution Image copyright Getty Images

Holyrood politicians are campaigning for their pensions to come from "ethical investments" rather than fossil fuel companies.

The MSP pension fund currently invests at least £1m in oil, gas and coal companies, according to Friends and Earth Scotland.

Now a cross-party group of MSPs have spoken out on the issue ahead of a meeting of their pension fund trustees.

A parliament spokesman said they were reviewing their investment strategy.

The move comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a "climate emergency" at the SNP party conference earlier this year.

There is growing pressure from environmental campaigners for public bodies to move their investment into greener companies, also referred to as divesting.

Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish said sustainable investment was key to achieving a "net zero economy".

"The time has come for the Scottish government and parliament to begin ethical environmental investments for a sustainable future, for workers, communities, children, and grandchildren," she said.

"This leadership and solidarity will give assurance that, when planned for over an appropriate timescale, we can all confidently see divestment from fossil fuels, and positive investment in a just transition to a net zero emissions economy and society."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former SNP minister said investments should be in renewable energy

The Divest Scotland campaign has been supported by 14 MSPs - including Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Green's Alison Johnstone - and one former SNP minister Marco Biagi.

Mr Biagi, who was local government minister until 2016, said: "Pensions need to be funded through safe, long-term investments but I won't be collecting mine until a decade after Scotland aims to be carbon neutral.

"We need to get fossil fuels out of the retirement portfolio long before that. The industry can't go on like it is, and, if it does, the consequences for everyone in the world will be dire.

"If we have energy investments they should only be in renewables - it's both the responsible and the sensible choice."

'Strong message'

The campaign has also been backed by Friends of the Earth Scotland, with campaigner Ric Lander calling on MSPs to put "their own house in order, divesting their own pension fund from fossil fuels and making a commitment to investing in a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.

"This simple, practical step by MSPs would send a strong message that they are willing to bank on a greener Scotland that's fairer and healthier for people and planet."

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: "The fund trustees are in the process of reviewing the scheme investment strategy and will discuss it at their next meeting.

"This will include consideration of investments in fossil fuel companies. A final decision about the scheme investment strategy will be made in due course."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "There is no bigger priority than tackling climate change and Scotland is already well recognised as a world leader in doing so and in adopting renewable energy, with the ability to meet almost 75% of our electricity needs from renewable sources in 2018.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognises a continued need for hydrocarbons during the transition to a more sustainable energy system.

"Scotland's domestic oil and gas industry and its skilled supply chain can and will play a positive role in supporting the low carbon transition and continued energy security throughout that transition.

"The Scottish government is committed to achieving a net-zero economy and to managing the transition in a way that is fair for all."