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Tuesday 16th of March 2010
September 18, 2009    

Shetland invests oil wealth in weapons and tobacco

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by David Masters

Shetland’s oil wealth will continue to be invested in tobacco firms, arm manufacturers and companies accused of violating human rights.

Trustees of the Shetland Charitable Trust, which distributes the Scottish Isle’s oil wealth to community projects, voted against a pilot scheme to invest £500,000 in ethical funds.

Rick Nickerson, the trustee who proposed the scheme, said the trustees’ decision is “a sad reflection” on Shetland.

“It’s a sad reflection on society in general that the best performing portfolios are in tobacco and armaments,” he said.

Gussie Angus, a trustee who supported the proposal, said the decision was “regrettable and shameful”.

“I repeatedly beseeched my fellow trustees to stop the trust investing in tobacco shares on the basis that smoking-related diseases kills one Shetlander every week,” he said.

“If the charitable trust is supposed to be investing in the community – logic would have it that it would want a live community.

“They seem to be investing in the dead.”

Trustees defended the decision on the grounds of their responsibility to maximise returns on investments.

Trustee Gary Robinson pointed out that the charitable trust is “100 per cent funded by oil and gas companies” many of which have “less than ethical standards”.

Trustees have no right to adopt a “holier than thou” attitude on investments, he said.

“We could go round this table and probably rule out investing in anything on ethical grounds,” he added.

Betty Fullerton, former chair of NHS Shetland, said she opposed investing in tobacco firms but put her personal concerns aside to vote against ethical investment.

“It would be wrong to pursue personal interests for the trust,” she said.

“Our staff has a lot to do at the moment and ethical investment would divert them from more important things.

“As it stands our first priority has to be, I am afraid, making money for the people of Shetland so that we can carry on with leisure centres, cares homes, hopefully increase the capacity of the care centres. I think that is more important at this stage.”

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