John Finnie MSP talked about campaigning to clean up the Scottish Parliament’s pension scheme from inside the student occupation for divestment at Edinburgh University. Image: Ric Lander.

Wee green shoots of reform are poking out of the soil this month for Scotland’s public pensions as the debate on responsible investment of Scotland’s public pensions moved forward on a number of key issues.

Local government pensions will have more confidence to divest from irresponsible companies once the ‘fiduciary duties’ of fund managers in Scots Law is made clear.  This is now the task of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme Advisory Board, who, led by trade unions, are investigating what legal barriers exist for local government pensions to divest and reinvest over the summer.

At the same time the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee is investigating how local government pension funds could invest more in Scottish infrastructure.  Some funds are leading the way on this such as Falkirk, which invested in £30 million in social housing and the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which invested £10 million in smaller scale renewables and we published a blog of some of the best examples of reinvestment.

Hundreds of people have now signed Friends of the Earth Scotland’s petition for fossil free pensions and we are taking the call forward to fund managers and trustees.

Responding to a report and presentation we gave to Scotland’s second largest local government scheme, the Lothian Pension Fund, Councillors approved a motion which will ensure the publication of new information about its investments in renewable energy.  We are building support for the Lothian Pension Fund to cut its fossil fuel investments by adopting a strong approach on sustainability.  This needs to come from the pension fund members themselves, and we were encouraged to hear Councillors seriously consider proposals for how they could consult the fund’s 65,000 members on green investment.

Local action must be backed by national action.  Earlier this Spring John Finnie MSP proposed to the Scottish Parliament pensions to adopt an ethical investment policy.  The proposal was rejected, but responding to this set-back, a campaign group has now sprouted to put pressure on all MSPs to divest their pension scheme from arms and fossil fuels.

Both the Scottish Parliament and local government funds have an opportunity to lead the way on responsible, sustainable investments for our retirement.