Helen K. Woodsford-Dean: Investing in the Arms Trade

Like many local authorities in the UK, Orkney Islands Council invests its reserves and pension funds in the stock market. Part of OIC’s £200 million Strategic Reserve Fund is invested in British companies which are involved, either directly or indirectly, in the global arms trade. Some of these companies supply arms to Saudi Arabia who are currently widely reported to be involved in attacking civilian targets in the Yemen.

I am a pacifist. So I am going to automatically be against these investments but I know that many other people won’t feel so strongly. OIC does have a responsibility to invest in order to gain the best possible financial returns, however, several of the companies invested in have actually returned a loss … or have been involved in recent and costly bribery scandals.

There is no longer any argument for continuing to hold these investments. Surely no one in Orkney would wish to be complicit in the production and sale of weapons? Nor to profit from death and destruction?

Another argument is that it is difficult to see where the weapons trail ends, and this is an equally valid point: component parts made and exported can have multiple uses. Indeed, I pondered this first as an issue in the 1980s when many more people were encouraged to invest in the stock market – I wondered then if people knew what they were getting involved in and specifically whether they may inadvertently be the authors of their own doom (you invest in a company for whom you work, that company has to make profit, as part of making that profit, you are made redundant).

Alice, the rabbit hole is exceedingly deep and twisted. But this is no excuse to do nothing, everyone can start somewhere.

Nevertheless, you may wish to accuse me of hypocrisy because I remain a current member of the OIC pension scheme and therefore I am complicit in the arms trade against my will. If elected, I will, however, do everything I can to make changes to OIC’s investment strategy one of my priorities.

Helen K. Woodsford-Dean is standing as a Scottish Green Party candidate for the West Mainland ward, Orkney in May’s local elections.You can read her blog here Vote for Me

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