Highland Councillors are to be offered a briefing on the legal implications of using the council’s massive pension fund to invest in infrastructure for the Highlands.
The idea was discussed at yesterday’s corporate resources meeting in the light of the council’s cash-strapped position, and its capital borrowing debt, the third highest in Scotland behind Edinburgh and Glasgow at almost £1bn.
Councillor Ian Cockburn said: “The pension fund is of course put into investments to give the best return it can.
“Why do we not get at least part of it to invest in council projects that could also give a return, maybe not as high as investment?
“That way it is investing in the area’s future.”
Councillor Andrew Jarvie said using the fund was something the council needed to do.
He said: ““In most other countries, pension funds competitively finance large infrastructure projects and the sheer level of competition gives a lot more flexibility around repayment terms.”
Highland economist Tony Mackay said regulations now made it easier for council pension funds to support their own objectives.
He said: “These vehicles are traditionally used to deliver infrastructure projects, including housing.
“Pension fund trustees still have to make sure their investments generate good returns but they can accept lower rates for social and environmental reasons providing it is consistent with their overall investment strategy.”
Corporate resources chairman Alister Mackinnon said the situation was legally complex, and a treasury adviser would be invited to the councillor briefing.