Withdraw Holyrood’s pension investment from Russian bank, MSPs demand

The Scottish Parliament is being urged to divest pension funds from Russian state-owned investment firm Sberbank.

Tom Eden
Monday 28 February 2022 11:03 GMT
MSPs are calling for the Scottish Parliament to end its pension investment in Russian state-run bank Sberbank (Katharine Hay/PA)
MSPs are calling for the Scottish Parliament to end its pension investment in Russian state-run bank Sberbank (Katharine Hay/PA) (PA Wire)

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Holyrood’s pension investments should be moved from a Russian state-owned bank in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, MSPs have said.

Pension funds worth almost £300,000 should be divested from Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, according to the Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats.

A freedom of information request by The Ferret found that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme has holdings in Sberbank worth £299,571.

Following the revelation, Scottish Green finance spokesman Ross Greer and Scottish Lib Dem economy spokesman Willie Rennie both called for the investment to be reviewed.

In a motion lodged at Holyrood, Mr Greer wants MSPs to support a demand for the trustees of the Scottish Parliament Pension Fund to “immediately divest its holdings in Sberbank and to review all current fund investments to ensure compatibility with Scotland’s commitment to be a rights-respecting nation”.

Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeny has also tabled a motion calling for the consul general of the Russian Federation to be expelled from Edinburgh, for the Scottish Government to undertake a full audit of “corrupt” Russian assets in Scotland and to confiscate them.

President Joe Biden cut direct access to the dollar for Sberbank and another Russian bank, VTB, and Mr Greer’s motion also calls for the UK Government to follow suit with further sanctions.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the pension funds were controlled by investment firm Baillie Gifford and expressed doubt that the parliament could choose where money was invested.

She said: “The trustees agreed in March 2021 all future pensions contributions would be invested in a sustainable, ethical fund that excludes companies that contravene UN principles on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

“The SPPS invests in pooled funds with Baillie Gifford.

“It is one of a number of investors in the funds, therefore beyond these ethical conditions, the trustees cannot direct Baillie Gifford in their investment strategy.”

Scotland needs to play its part in putting the squeeze on Vladimir Putin and his regime and that means using the financial leverage we have

Willie Rennie MSP

Commenting on his call for investments to be divested from Sberbank, Mr Greer said: “I cannot fathom why the Scottish Parliament Pension Fund has holdings in Sberbank in the first place but, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is clearly inappropriate for that to remain the case.

“Some trustees of the fund have resisted ethical investment policies for too long but I’m sure most MSPs and former MSPs will want this urgently addressed and Sberbank immediately divested from.

“Colleagues who support this proposal should sign my motion as soon as possible and speak directly to the trustees.”

Mr Rennie added: “Scotland needs to play its part in putting the squeeze on Vladimir Putin and his regime and that means using the financial leverage we have.

“In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge sum of money but it is important to send a message that Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine will not be tolerated or supported.”

Cosla, the representative body for Scotland’s councils, has also written to the Russian ambassador in the UK, Andrei Kelin, to express support for Ukraine following the invasion of Russia.

Cosla president Alison Evison said: “The Cosla convention, the largest political gathering of local leaders in Scotland, unanimously agreed I put on record that Scottish local government expresses our full support to and solidarity with the Ukrainian people and our peers in local and regional government.

“The inevitable suffering being, and yet to be, caused to local communities across Ukraine by the Russian military invasion cannot be ignored.  

“What is happening now in Kyiv, twinned with Edinburgh from where I chaired today’s meeting, is both frightening and heartbreaking.

“We in Scottish local government stand ready to open our arms to those in Ukraine and help them in whatever way we can.”

The letter concluded by calling on Russia to cease its attack, to leave the national territory of Ukraine, and to respect all international treaties and fundamental principles of international law.

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