5.9 University of the West of Scotland

The University of the West of Scotland’s Ethical Investment Statement states that the university “recognises its responsibility to operate in an ethical manner and to take account of social, environmental and ethical considerations in all activities including financial investment”. The statement goes on to say that “the University will not hold any direct investments in companies involved in the arms, tobacco, and pornography and in the extraction and production on oil, gas and other fossil fuels” (our emphasis).

The university should be applauded for excluding arms companies (and implicitly nuclear weapons producers) from direct investment. However, we have been unable to verify how comprehensively this policy has been applied as the university rejected our request for a list of its investments. The response to our freedom of information request stated that “release of information relating to our spend in to the public domain would be detrimental to our commercial interest as it would allow other educational institutes in direct competition with us to use this information when determining their financial business models”.

Additionally, the policy on arms companies only covers direct investments so the university may hold indirect investments in nuclear weapons producers. The university did send us a list of the funds where its investments are held and at least one (Blackrock Continental European Income Fund) holds shares in nuclear weapons producers (Thales and Safran).

If you’re a student at the University of the West of Scotland and you think that the university’s policy should be strengthened, you can contact the university’s principal or ask CAAT Universities (https://caatunis.net/) or People and Planet (https://peopleandplanet.org/) for information about how to get involved in divestment campaigns.