Nuclear weapons are the “most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created”. This horrifying power was demonstrated in 1945, when the US dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow, has told of how her fellow schoolchildren were “carbonized or vaporized” instantly by the heat of 4,000 degrees Celsius, while the radiation affected others “in mysterious and random ways, with some dying instantly, and others weeks, months or years later by the delayed effects”.
Today, nine states together possess nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear war has grown. As well as causing mass casualties, a nuclear war using as few as 100 nuclear weapons would impact the global climate, destroy ecosystems and precipitate widespread famine.
Despite these risks, nuclear-armed nations are unwilling to disarm and, instead, they are maintaining and “modernising” their arsenals. Vast sums of money that could be could be spent on education, healthcare and housing are being transferred to companies that produce the key components for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
Nevertheless, a majority of the world’s countries have chosen to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. On 7 July 2017, 122 states adopted the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which prohibits the development, testing, possession, acquisition and use of nuclear weapons. Support for the treaty grew out of increased global awareness of the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and concern over the lack of progress on disarmament.
The successful negotiation of the TPNW has given enormous momentum to the global movement for nuclear disarmament. The stigma attached to nuclear weapons is growing and states are facing increasing pressure to abandon national security doctrines that rely on them. Advocating for divestment gives us another way to challenge this reliance: by targeting the companies that produce nuclear weapons through their investors.
A majority of people in Scotland opposed the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons programme but the UK Parliament approved the £205 billion project in 2016. By convincing financial institutions to divest, we can cut off funding for the companies that work on Trident and other nuclear weapons programmes. This will give those companies an incentive to stop producing nuclear weapons and make it harder for states to maintain nuclear weapons programmes.
The annual Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report (DBOTB report),* published by Dutch peace organisation PAX, names and shames the financial institutions which profit from their involvement with the world’s top 20 nuclear weapons producing companies. The report also highlights the institutions which have adopted comprehensive policies prohibiting the financing of nuclear weapons in its Hall of Fame.
The 2018 DBOTB report revealed that Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS Group), Standard Life Aberdeen and Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Bank of Scotland, together made £4.7 billion available to 17 of the world’s top 20 nuclear weapons producers between 2014 and 2017 (see section 3 for details).
This guide also includes information from other sources which shows that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme, the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme and Scottish universities together have at least £296 million invested in companies that are involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (see sections 5, 6 and 7). These investments are inconsistent with the position of the Scottish government, which is firmly opposed to nuclear weapons and supports the TPNW.
Each of us can play a key role in helping to rid the world of nuclear weapons by getting involved in the divestment movement. This guide is intended to be a resource for those who wish to engage with Scottish organisations about nuclear weapons divestment:
- Section 1 explains the reasons why financial institutions and other organisations in Scotland should divest from nuclear weapons.
- Section 2 explains which nuclear weapons producers that are covered in this report.
- Sections 3 to 7 provide details of the financial institutions and organisations in Scotland that invest in nuclear weapons producers, so you know which ones to target.
- Section 8 is a guide to the actions that you can take to promote divestment.
*Note: references to the 2018 DBOTB throughout this guide are to: Maaike Beenes and Susi Snyder, “Don’t Bank on the Bomb: A Global Report on the Financing of Nuclear Weapons Producers”, PAX (March 2018).