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Local authority under fire over shares in arms firm

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Ben Thomson
Councillor Ben Thomson

HIGHLAND Council’s pension fund has millions invested in one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers.

Now activists are pleading with it to ditch £6.4 million worth of shares in American giant General Dynamics.

The company, which manufactured the F-16 fighter jet, has been criticised for trading with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Critics maintain the company’s weapons were used in operations with high civilian casualties.

The Highland-Palestine group says the council should “examine its conscience” and invest more ethically.

It is taking part in the highly controversial boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement, seeking to isolate Israel over the treatment of Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

An open letter to council members including councillor Ben Thomson, who chairs the sub-committee on pension investment, said the local authority should change tack, though he insisted they take ethical responsibilities very seriously.

The letter said: “It is the duty of public institutions to uphold international law and human rights norms, and it is completely unacceptable that, through its pension fund, Highland Council should finance their ongoing violation. It’s time for Highland Council to examine its conscience, put its principles into practice and follow its own guidelines on ethical investment by divesting itself of its shares in General Dynamics.”

Cllr Thomson said: “The investments made by the pension fund are selected by independent investment managers. Those managers’ investments are regularly scrutinised by the council’s investment committee for adherence to their mandates and for their performance against the investment objectives.

“The council takes ethical, social and environmental issues seriously and those form a key part of the governance structure as detailed in the pension fund’s Statement of Investment Principles.”

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