Council’s pension fund tobacco investment attacked

A Scottish council has been forced to defend its £2.3 million investment in a multi-national tobacco company while at the same time promoting a host of anti-smoking public health initiatives.

Scottish Borders Council came under fire from health charities over its pension fund’s investment in British American Tobacco, whose cigarette brands include Benson & Hedges and Rothmans.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of charity ASH Scotland, said: “Local authorities, the police and fire service are all tasked with looking after people’s wellbeing.

“This doesn’t sit easily with investments in tobacco companies, who sell an addictive product that kills half of its long-term users.

“Yet while tobacco companies still try to recruit new generations of smokers, the numbers continue to decline. So removing all investments from tobacco companies can make sense financially as well as morally.”

The equity holding in British American Tobacco is revealed in Scottish Borders Council Pension Fund’s annual report and accounts for 2013/14.

A spokesman for the local authority acknowledged an “ongoing issue between the objectives of the council as the body providing a wide variety of public services, including a public health remit, and its role administering the Scottish Borders Council Pension Fund.”

He said a review would consider adopting “more explicit exclusions” for sectors that the pension fund will not invest in.