I'm gonna lay down that atom bomb

IssueApril - May 2019
Feature by Linda Pearson, Michael Orgel, Guy Johnson


The ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ campaign for Scotland was launched at a public meeting in Edinburgh on 16 November 2015. Photo: Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre

In September 2018, the ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland’ campaign group (DBOTB Scotland) published a guide for divestment from nuclear weapons entitled Stop Funding the End of the World – Working to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons Through Divestment: A Guide for Scotland.

The guide was launched as part of the Nae Nukes international series of events in Scotland including a march and demonstration at Faslane. The aim of the divestment movement in Scotland is to persuade Scottish companies and organisations to stop providing financial support in the form of loans and investments to companies which are involved in the production of nuclear weapons. This will in turn pressurise these companies to halt nuclear weapons production.

Divestment has been shown to work in the case of cluster munitions.

Why divest?

Organisations that finance nuclear weapons producers are backing war over peace, as the success of their investments relies on the continuation of conflict and heightened tensions in international politics. The risk to our survival posed by nuclear weapons is demonstrated by their sheer number and the probability of catastrophic atmospheric changes in the event of even a small percentage of those weapons being used. The only way to ensure the survival of our species is to totally eliminate nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons will be illegal under international humanitarian law when the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force. It is widely accepted that organisations who financially support nuclear weapons producers will find themselves on the wrong side of international law.

Investing in nuclear weapons producers is out of step with public opinion in Scotland, which was against the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapon system. It is also out of step with the position of the Scottish government, which is firmly opposed to nuclear weapons.

Scottish connections

Several companies which have bases and factories in Scotland such as Thales and BAE Systems are ranked in the top 20 nuclear weapons producers in the world. A majority of the producers featured on the top 20 list have benefited from Scottish funding whether through loans or investment.

The Scottish local government pension scheme (LGPS) is the largest public pension scheme in Scotland. It has over half a million members and £42 billion in assets. The LGPS fund is administered by pension committees in 11 fund administering authorities.

“Investing in nuclear weapons producers is out of step with public opinion in Scotland.”

Information drawn from the authorities’ websites and compiled from Freedom of Information requests shows that the Scottish LGPS holds shares worth approximately £294 million in 14 major nuclear weapons producers. (A detailed breakdown of investments is included in the full guide.)

The pensions of members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) are managed by the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme. In 2014, a response to a question to the Scottish parliamentary corporate body by Green MSP John Finnie revealed that four percent of the Scottish parliamentary pension scheme fund was invested in arms companies.

Recent analysis by the Scottish investigative journalism co-operative, The Ferret, and by the independent online Scottish magazine, CommonSpace, showed that the pension fund had £175,495 invested in Rolls Royce. Rolls Royce is a significant contributor to the UK nuclear weapons programme.

This investment goes against the avowed principles of both the Scottish government and the majority of MSPs – who have been vehement in their opposition to Trident renewal. Stop Funding the End of the World also looks at the financial investments of Scottish universities. Most notably the University of Glasgow holds over £1.6 million worth of shares in 11 nuclear weapons producers while the University of Strathclyde holds shares worth £336,963 in BAE Systems.

A breakdown of the investments and public policies of other Scottish universities can be found in the guide.

There are a number of Scottish financial institutions financing nuclear weapons. Two feature in the international ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ hall of shame. RBS group and Standard Life Aberdeen between them made over £2.8 billion available to 15 of the top 20 nuclear weapons producers between 2014 and 2017.

Lloyds banking group, which includes Bank of Scotland and which has a registered headquarters in Edinburgh, made £1.9 billion available to 12 of the top 20 companies during the same period. Full details of these institutions’ investments can be found in Stop Funding the End of the World.

It’s possible!

The guide recaps divestment campaign successes and explains how the strategy can be applied to nuclear weapons.
What you can do

The key aims of the nuclear weapons divestment movement and what steps we can take to achieve these are outlined in Stop Funding the End of the World.

  • Contact your bank. Research your bank in the guide and find out about their policies toward investing in nuclear weapons producers. Then contact them and take action as the guide suggests. This is a key part of persuading financial institutions to adopt comprehensive policies prohibiting financial involvement with nuclear weapons producers and to divest from nuclear weapons producers.
  • Research whether your own pension fund is investing in nuclear weapons producers and write to them asking them to divest.
  • Reaching out to them to express your concerns will put pressure on these funds to divest from nuclear weapons.
  • Speak to your local councillor. You can impact your local government pension scheme’s investments.
  • Write to your MSP if you are in Scotland and ask them to write to the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Fund calling for divestment from nuclear weapons.
  • Write to your MP and ask them what their pension fund is invested in and whether it invests in nuclear or other arms. It is already known that the pension fund of MPs invests in fossil fuels and tobacco and there are calls to divest.Please let the DBOTB Scotland group know what you are doing and about any replies you receive to letters.
Topics: Nuclear weapons
See more of: Scotland