NUS figures fuel debate on divestment

Scottish universities have investments of nearly £16 million in oil, coal and gas extraction, and £3 million in the arms industry

April 7, 2015

That is according to figures obtained by the National Union of Students in Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act as the University of Edinburgh prepares to take a decision on whether to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Edinburgh, which holds the largest investment portfolio in Scotland’s higher education sector at £291 million, will take a decision on divestment later this month. The university currently invests £8.6 million in fossil fuels and £675,000 in the arms industry, the data obtained by the NUS indicate.

If Edinburgh opts to divest itself of fossil fuel investment, it will join institutions like the universities of Glasgow and Bedfordshire, which have recently taken similar decisions. Glasgow last year became the first university in Europe to commit to fully divesting from fossil fuel industry companies, a move that will mean the reallocation of about £18 million in investments over a 10-year period.

According to the NUS figures, Glasgow invested 5 per cent of its endowment of £43.3 million into fossil fuel extraction and 3 per cent into the arms industry in the past academic year.

Meanwhile, the University of Strathclyde invested 10 per cent out of its overall endowment of £27 million into fossil fuel companies and 3 per cent into arms, and the University of Dundee invested 9 per cent of its endowment of £21 million into oil, gas and coal.

Kirsty Haigh, vice-president of NUS Scotland, said: “Our universities need to start taking their ethical responsibilities seriously, divest from harmful industries, and put their money towards sustainable development and projects that support their students and the communities around them.”

Edinburgh is no stranger to public pressure for ethical investment. In 2013, the university agreed to end its £1.2 million investment in Ultra Electronics, a company that manufactures components for unmanned drones used by the American military.

The campaign to end investment in Ultra Electronics was organised in part by the student group People and Planet, the same organisation now putting pressure on the university to end its investments in arms and fossil fuels.

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