Introduction

Nuclear weapons are the “most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created”. This horrifying power was demonstrated in August 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 up to a million 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 exchange 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 maintaining, upgrading, and “modernising” their arsenals.  Vast sums of money that could be spent on education, healthcare and housing are instead 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 reject nuclear weapons completely. 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 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 create an incentive for those companies to stop producing nuclear weapons and make it harder for states to maintain nuclear weapons programmes.

This guide includes information showing that the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme, the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme and Scottish universities together have approximately £296 million invested in companies that are involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (see sections 3, 4 and 5). These investments are inconsistent with the position of the Scottish government, which is firmly opposed to nuclear weapons and supports the TPNW.

Section 6 details information from the annual global Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report (DBOTB report)* which shows that Scottish financial institutions, 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 nuclear weapons producers between 2014 and 2017. The report, published by Dutch peace organisation PAX, names and shames 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, and recognises those banks, pension funds and insurers that are making an effort in the Runners-up section.

Each of us can play a key role in helping to rid the world of nuclear weapons by getting involved in the divestment movement. Section 8 of this guide contains information about what you can do, including our Four Steps Towards Divestment for banks and pension funds.