Arms company drops Science Festival sponsorship

Selex ES offices on Crewe Road. Pic: Esme Allen
Selex ES offices on Crewe Road. Pic: Esme Allen
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A major arms company has pulled out of a sponsorship deal with the Edinburgh International Science Festival after claims the event was accepting “blood money.”

Selex ES, one of the world’s biggest weapons firms, has been accused of selling high-tech arms and security systems to repressive and undemocratic regimes across the globe.

But campaigners are now urging the festival to cut all ties with the controversial company after it emerged the firm would still be running a popular children’s activity at the event.

Selex ES - which has a base at Crewe Toll and is part of the £11 billion Italian corporation Finmeccanica - was one of the festival’s “major funding partners”, providing £18,000-worth of cash every year.

The firm has sold military surveillance drones to Pakistan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and radar for use in Israeli drones, as well as weapons and missile electronics to the United Arab Emirates and weapons management systems to Thailand and Malaysia.

Last year protests erupted over the company’s involvement in the festival, with campaigners accusing the event of accepting “blood money.”

Today it emerged Selex ES has withdrawn from its sponsorship deal with the festival - but was still set to run an event called Rampaging Chariots, which helps hundreds of children build and race robots.

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign accused the company of “profiting from death.”

Dr Evelyn McGregor, chair of the campaign’s Edinburgh branch, said: “The campaign welcomes the news that Selex are no longer sponsors of the festival.

“However, support is not a matter of degree and so we now urge the festival organisers to lead by example in ethical event sponsorship and end all elements of the Selex partnership.”

Dr Stuart Parkinson, executive director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, added: “We are very disappointed that Selex is still involved in one of the children’s events at the festival.”

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is one of the largest in Europe, hosting hundreds of events over its two-week running period.

Festival director Dr Simon Gage insisted Selex ES’s decision was a result of “an update to its corporate social responsibility objectives.”

He said: “We have received correspondence from and met with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and we are taking the concerns raised seriously. This will be discussed at the highest level with our board of directors.”

A spokesman for Selex ES said: “This year the company has taken the decision to not be a major funding partner of the festival but is funding a wide range of complementary activities aimed at highlighting to young people the thrilling, varied engineering careers open to them at companies like ours.

“Selex ES’s commercial activity strictly respects international procedures and laws.

“The company strongly supports the UK and Italian governments’ approach to export sales and sells its systems and technology to customers which are approved by these governments.”