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MSP urges council pension funds to invest in affordable housing

Local authorities in the Highlands and Islands have been urged to invest part of their pension funds in affordable housing.
Local authorities in the Highlands and Islands have been urged to invest part of their pension funds in affordable housing.

A Highland and Islands MSP is urging local councils to invest some of their pension funds in social and affordable housing.

John Finnie said the idea would have the joint benefit of helping society as well as boosting pension fund returns.

The Independent MSP has written to the six local authorities in the area – Argyll and Bute, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles – urging them to emulate the example of Falkirk Council.

Falkirk Local Government Pension Scheme Fund has invested £30million in the Housing Fund for Scotland, managed by Hearthstone Investments.

The deal is expected to fund the construction of more than 300 affordable homes. Hearthstone predicts the fund will raise £150million and build more than 1,000 homes.

Mr Finnie has campaigned to divest public sector pension funds from “destructive industries” like fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco in favour of “socially useful” investments like affordable housing and renewable energy.

Last autumn he criticised the trustees of the MSPs’ Scottish Parliament Pension Scheme for refusing to take action on “unethical investments”.

“Public authorities invest billions of pounds in pension funds, and that money could and should be helping to fund the investment we need in everything from affordable homes to clean energy,” he said.

“Our pension funds can do good for society as well as growing strongly to provide for our retirement.

“The dedicated public servants who pay into council pensions aren’t just numbers on a screen. They’re real people who need homes, schools, hospitals, a healthy environment and jobs for their families. It makes no sense to invest their money in things which undermine those needs when it could be helping to fulfil them.”

He added: “I believe most people – especially people who have chosen a career in public service – don’t want to be bankrolling oil companies, the arms industry and big tobacco.

“Falkirk’s investment proves there are alternatives. I hope other councils and the Scottish Parliament are paying attention.”

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