Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Highland Council's questionable pension fund investments

AyeRight has been reading an article in a recent issue of the Press and Journal that highlights some questionable investments on the part of our local authority.

It is right and proper that Highland Council look at what their pension fund is supporting.
To have a body that has actively supported anti smoking measures investing in the tobacco industry is clearly more than just wrong. Taking the health issue further is it right that they should also invest in the drinks industry? As we all know the Highlands has its very own drinks sector, mainly that of whisky but other beverages as well providing income and jobs for the area.
But here we have major conflict as like many other areas of Scotland we have health problems caused by drink. Recently P & J it is reported that the Highlands have the worst record in Scotland for school pupils being suspended for alcohol related incidents
, surely an indictment if one were needed that it is just not tenable for Highland Council to give any support to investments within the drinks industry?
The council will never find an easy resting place between the conflicting interests of business and health, and neither side is likely to be happy with any compromise position which the council may attempt to reach.
Just as we saw smoking exposed as bad for us, is it only a matter of time before drink follows suit?
This Scottish alcohol awareness site makes for some sober reading.
Did Michael Foxley really promise that money will be switched from tobacco to “more ethical” stocks? Surely there are only ethical and non ethical companies with no half measures, what is a ‘more ethical’ investment, putting money into say the clothing market (Sweat shops) rather than tobacco?
The time served council worker is going to want the largest pension available, that is human nature, but we have to ask at what cost. To continue with non ethical investment means that they are going to enjoy retirement on the back of someone else’s suffering.
And whilst the council are debating pensions should it not be looking at all of it’s investments?
Joking aside on the issue of certain councils having invested in Icelandic terrorists, does Highland Council through its general banking and investments (Our money) support the likes of the arms trade?
As Bill Fernie says this will be a long discussion, and I think it will be a long time before the smoke has cleared


Anonymous said...

"The ethics of pension fund investment"

OOOOOh! a very risky topic! - does everyone know where their pension fund investment is?

Certainly the HC are hypocrits where their smoking cessation policy is concerned especially when they have invested millions in the tobacco industry, I think it better they make a good return than a bad one personally.

Look what happened to the employees of Robert Maxwell and the lessons learned there enough said I think - after all the HC pension fund is'nt in all fairness wholly public money but employee's money as well is it not, I would hate to think that HC employees money is the subject of ethical investment opposed to bad investment.

Regarding the school pupils being suspended for alcohol incidents - well I am not sure that the whisky drinks sector is responsible for that either - How many whisky bottles do you find littering the parks and popular youth drinking areas about Nairn for example? - Very few - I blame the alcohol vendors as well as the irresponsible adults that contribute to purchase on their behalf - thats where the real problem rests - society in general is making the drinks and tobacco industry the success that it is not the HC employee's pension fund.

Anonymous said...

Highland Council is an accountable public body period. In 2009 there is no excuse for it not to be investing and banking only in ethical companies, this is not a matter for debate. If indeed this is not the case then the council has a duty to inform us as to when it will make the necessary changes, and to carry them out as soon as is possible?
I for one pay my council tax assuming that the council will look after my money responsibly. Highland Council uses our money to pay their employees. Employees who opt into the council pension fund allow a deduction from their wages to pay into that fund. As far as I know this money remains in trust with Highland Council and only becomes the employees money when they start to draw their pension?
Investment is always a risk but no-one can justify non ethical investment or banking. How many wars, areas of poverty, and slavery does anyone need to be reminded of this?
With regard to the drinks industry. The example given does relate to school children and agreed whisky may not be their first choice of alcohol. However, the majority of whisky companies are owned my much larger drinks groups producing all manner of alcohol.
Our society has a huge problem with excessive alcohol intake which is detrimental to the populations health. The drinks industry is going to cost us millions of pounds in health care, investment in this sector would not be seen as a responsible action by a member of the public, let alone a council.
Each time anyone buys tobacco or alcohol they are supporting those industries, but it is not the role of a public body to effectively do the same by putting money into these companies.
Who is going to stand up and say that they would rather have a few more pennies in their pension if it means other humans being killed, or their lives shortened? Hopefully not Highland Council.

Graisg said...

The way the Gurnmeister sees it,either the Highland Council wants to go all the way and really do something about these issues with ethical investment or just tick the boxes and pay lip service to a few campaings? A little more gold braid on a few cv's until the community charge funded pension arrives?

Anonymous said...

Seems our council could be losing pension monies by not following ethical investment?

'Council pension fund's holding of shares in weapons manufacturers brought a poorer return in 2005 than if the money had been put into ethical investments.'