Lothians pension pot has £85m in arms firms linked to Middle East ‘dirty war’

A Yemeni man goes through the wreckage of a building that was reportedly destroyed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the capital Sanaa on September 5, 2018. Pic: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni man goes through the wreckage of a building that was reportedly destroyed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the capital Sanaa on September 5, 2018. Pic: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images
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COUNCIL workers in the Lothians have more than £85m of their pension fund invested in arms firms linked to a brutal civil war in the Middle East.

The Lothians fund has more money tied up with company’s selling arms to Saudi Arabia than any other UK pension pot.

Yemenis gather near the scene of an explosion resulting from a suicide bombing, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group which hit UAE-trained Yemeni troops on March 13, 2018 in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Pic: Saleh Al-Obeidi/'AFP/Getty Images)

Yemenis gather near the scene of an explosion resulting from a suicide bombing, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group which hit UAE-trained Yemeni troops on March 13, 2018 in the southern Yemeni city of Aden. Pic: Saleh Al-Obeidi/'AFP/Getty Images)

Campaigners will next week bring a judicial review to the Court of Appeal into the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen’s conflict.

Kate Nevens from Edinburgh Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “It’s shocking that Lothian Pension Fund is investing so much money in companies that are playing a central role in the bombardment and destruction of Yemen.

“It is using our city’s money to profit from war, and supporting companies whose weapons are implicated in war crimes.

“Public money should be used for the public good. The fund should set a positive precedent by investing in areas like renewable energy, and proactively engaging with industries that are part of creating the positive changes we want to see in the world.”

The Lothian Pension Fund is responsible for investing the retirement plans - collectively worth £7.8 billion - of local government and public body workers in the region.

Figures obtained under freedom of information laws showed the fund has £85.2m invested in arms firms.

The investments account for just over one percent of its total investments and earned the fund £3.8m last year.

US security giant Lockheed Martin accounts for the majority of Lothian Pension Fund’s investments in arms firms - with 282,787 shares worth £69.7 million.

The Maryland-based multinational, with offices in London, is one of two companies that build the GBU-12 Paveway II missile.

Shrapnel fragments found at the site where 40 children on a school bus were killed in Yemen last August by a Saudi warplane were reportedly traced back to the US company.

The fund also has 34,000 shares in fellow US firm Northrop Grumman - worth £7.8 million.

Its website states the firm is “heavily involved in the training and development of the Saudi military personnel, most notably providing technical services for the ministry of the national guard.”

Virginia-based Northrop Grumman’s portfolio includes combat aircraft including the ground-attack A-10 “tank buster” and the B-2 Spirit “stealth” bomber.

It also manufactures a wide range of military drones, including the Global Hawk which is used in surveillance and targeting.

Third on the list is Raytheon in which Lothian Pension Fund has 50,400 shares worth £7.7 million.

Massachusetts-based Raytheon also makes Paveway missiles at a factory in Glenrothes, Fife.

Shards of bombs found at several sites where Yemeni civilians died have been traced back to the US-based company, according to American network CNN.

Nearly 10,000 men, women and children, mostly civilians have been killed in Yemen’s civil war which has raged for more than three years.

Survivors have been pushed to the brink of starvation while outbreaks of diseases including cholera have created a humanitarian catastrophe.

The carnage is often referred to as a hidden war as it plays out away from the gaze of the international community.

Next Tuesday the Court of Appeal in London will begin to hear a three-day an appeal brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade.

It seeks to overturn a 2017 High Court judgment which allows the UK Government to continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

In May last year, CAAT was given permission to appeal against the original verdict.

This followed a hearing in front of two Court of Appeal judges, Lord Justice Irwin and Lord Justice Flaux.

CAAT’s legal team will argue that the decision to grant the licences was against UK arms export policy.

Campaigners argue a ‘clear risk’ exists that the arms might be used in ‘a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law’.

But the UK government claims to operate “one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world”.

As set out in the claim, a range of international organisations including a UN Panel of Experts, the European Parliament and many humanitarian NGOs, have condemned the ongoing Saudi air strikes against Yemen as unlawful. The violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) found by the bodies listed include:

Investments by Lothian Pension Fund have sparked controversy before, with cross-party city councillors urging a move away from fossil fuel fims last June.

And in 2017, the Evening News reported how the fund had invested £46 million into fracking firms.

The Lothian Pension Fund declined to comment on specific investments but its website sets out its policy.

It states: “Lothian Pension Fund has a fiduciary duty to its members and employers, set out in law, to invest for the best returns to ensure pensions can be paid when they are due.

“This restricts disinvesting from companies for purely non-financial reasons.

“However, the Fund believes strongly that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues affect the financial performance of the companies in which it invests.

“It has a long history of taking these ESG issues seriously and, where appropriate, acting upon them.”