UNIVERSITIES are investing millions of pounds in arms companies, new figures show.


Nearly £3 million was invested by the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Aberdeen-based Robert Gordon in companies linked to the arms trade.

The largest sum was the £1.3m invested by Glasgow University in a number of firms including BAE Systems, Europe's largest arms firm.

The details, which were revealed in a freedom of information request by student body NUS Scotland, also highlighted a sector-wide £15m investment in fossil fuel companies and £1.4m in businesses involved in the production and sale of alcohol.

Kirsty Haigh, vice-president of communities for NUS Scotland, said it was "shameful" universities were still investing money into such industries.

She said: "Our institutions should be working to benefit not just their campuses, but wider society as well and we should expect more from them. At the moment, many of them either don't know or don't care what companies their investments are supporting.

"None of the reasons for divestment are contentious, and universities should recognise that and take action. Burning fossil fuels is causing disastrous climate change, and arms companies profit from conflict and human rights abuses.

"Our universities - which are at the forefront of world leading research, innovation and social progress - should know this better than anyone."

Sam Robinson, university coordinator for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: "Glasgow University should disinvest in these arms companies immediately and establish an ethical investment policy.

"The arms trade is not a legitimate industry and should not be treated as one. These are companies that directly profit from, and encourage, oppression, global insecurity and conflict."

Mary Senior, Scotland official for the UCU lecturers' union, also went onto the attack, adding: "Universities are public bodies that receive over £1 billion of public money annually.

"They need to set the standard for ethical investments and should be leading the way in divesting away from questionable sectors or industries."

However, a spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said the oil and gas, alcohol and defence industries all had a significant presence in Scotland with a large export contribution to the country's economy.

She said: "It follows that Scottish institutions will engage with companies in these industries. Importantly, institutions will give due consideration to the appropriateness of any investment and keep under review how their investments are being used.

"Scottish universities have been at the forefront of climate change and health research, and have had a major focus on international development, for a number of decades and are continuing with this important work.

"The output of this work is playing a vital role in the global search for solutions to environmental problems as well as addressing health and societal issues at home."

The row comes after Glasgow University became the first institution in Europe to pledge to withdraw investments from oil companies on environmental grounds after a year-long campaign from students and green campaigners.

It means some £18m of the university's £130m endowment fund currently invested in companies such as Shell, BP and Chevron will be re-allocated over the next decade - as long as the financial impact is deemed "acceptable".

In February, BAE Systems revealed a rise in profits despite facing a squeeze on defence spending from its two biggest customers, the US and UK governments. Operating profit was up from £806m in 2013 to £1.3bn, while sales were down from £18.2bn to £16.6bn.