Scottish councils making millions from global arms trade

© Joshua Lott
Nine Scottish local authorities are directly invested in some of the world’s leading arms manufacturers, which supply Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Israel with weapons, it has emerged.

Common Weal South Lanarkshire published the data obtained under a series of freedom of information (FoI) requests.

The data shows Glasgow City Council has the highest projected return from joint military and aerospace investments at around £62 million (US$90 million).

Edinburgh City Council has projected gains of around £11 million ($17 million), and Highland Council has over £4.5 million ($6.75 million) in realised profits for all investments made in recent years.

Common Weal South Lanarkshire’s John Young says it is a matter of public concern that local authorities do not advertise their investments.

“Our motivation was to create a greater awareness of public monies being spent on arms investments without the knowledge, discussion or agreement of the wider public in our name,” he told CommonSpace.

“We hope this will encourage others to expose unethical investments in arms which are being used to kill civilian populations around the world. By creating a greater awareness we hope the public who support our view will hold their politicians and governments to account for the actions.”

Edinburgh City Council and Highland Council invest in Raytheon, which produces missiles used in numerous warzones from Palestine to Yemen. The firm has been linked to manufacturing components for bombs deployed in the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Several of Scotland’s local authorities invest in Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms firm, which produces weapons for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Bahrain and Israel. The company produces military aircraft, armored ground vehicles, missiles and unmanned systems for air and naval systems.

Besides Edinburgh, Glasgow and Highland councils, the nine local authorities with direct investments also include Orkney Islands Council, Scottish Borders Council, Moray Council, Fife Council, Falkirk Council, and Aberdeen City Council.

These investments do not offer a complete picture of the amount of public funds going into the arms trade, as these are only the local authorities with direct investments. Other local authorities are believed to hold indirect investments through pension funds.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade says councils should not be pouring public money into companies that fuel conflict and profit from war.

“Many of these companies have armed human rights abusers, and have caused devastation across the world. Scottish councils should take a stand and make clear that enough is enough.”

Last year, it was revealed Glasgow City Council’s Strathclyde Pension Fund had shares amounting to £19.6 million ($28.5 million) in Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Boeing is the largest producer of military aircraft and commercial jetliners in the world. Its aircraft have been deployed in military campaigns in war-torn states such as Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Scottish pension schemes have previously been scrutinized for investments in tobacco and arms firms. In January 2014, it emerged Scottish public sector pensions had invested more than £220 million ($319 million) in tobacco giants.