Exclusive: Your tuition fees may fund nuclear weapons
UoA's bank has invested billions in nuclear weapon production
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
photo credit: PAX for Peace
Despite commitments to engage in ethical investment practices, University funds may be contributing to the production of nuclear weapons, a Gaudie investigation has found.
The University’s bank, the Bank of Scotland, is a member of Lloyds Banking Group, which has invested over 2.2 billion dollars in companies which produce nuclear weapons for the armouries of France, the UK, and the United States.
Campaigners urge University to lobby Bank of Scotland to divest from nuclear weapons production-
Alejandra Munoz Valdez, Senior Project Officer for Humanitarian Disarmament with anti-nuclear weapons organisation PAX for Peace, told The Gaudie:
‘As described in our Don’t Bank on the Bomb Report, in total the Lloyds Bank Group invests more than USD 2.2 billion in General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus and BAE Systems. Financial institutions that back nuclear weapon producing companies enable them to continue their involvement in the development and production of these weapons of mass destruction, adding to the heightened risk of nuclear escalation that the world is witnessing today.’
Munoz Valdez commented that the University should ‘make clear it does not want its money to be associated with nuclear weapon production’ and lobby the Bank of Scotland to divest from the nuclear weapons industry. If this is unsuccessful, she added, ‘ the University should consider ending its financial relations with the Bank of Scotland.’
The University had an operating income of 261 million pounds during the 2021/2022 academic year, holding an additional 349 million pounds in reserves and endowments.
The University’s sustainable investment policy, agreed to in 2021, rules out investment in the ‘manufacture of controversial weapons including cluster bombs, landmines, nuclear weapons (systems of components) and companies that manufacture civilian firearms.’
However, it does not rule out banking with financial institutions which fund such weapons, as the Bank of Scotland does.
'Never the right time...': AUSA is also a Bank of Scotland client-
Similarly, AUSA also banks with the Bank of Scotland, receiving an income of 1.2 million pounds in 2020/2021. As of 31 July 2021, the date of the most recent financial report available, AUSA had a balance of 475 thousand pounds in their Bank of Scotland account.
AUSA currently requires affiliated student societies and sports clubs to use the Bank of Scotland if they seek to open a bank account.
Speaking to The Gaudie, departing VP for Communities Camilio Torres Barragan commented on the difficulties of changing banks. He said: ‘Banking system for our activities is one of those things we know we need to change and we are going to but it requires such a huge amount of work that it feels like it’s never the right time. Regardless, creating a new system that works better for our students is part of this year’s plan and discussions about the ethics of the banking we choose to do… are going to be part of it.’
'More concerned with appearances': Students label UoA’s relationship with Bank of Scotland as ‘disappointing’-
Several students told The Gaudie that they felt the University was being hypocritical for continuing to use the Bank of Scotland while publicly committing to ethical investments.
One second year student, who studies Animal Behavior, commented: ‘I don’t want my tuition being used to bolster the profits of the military industrial complex, especially when the University has made a commitment to distance itself from these sorts of companies.’
A fourth year student added: ‘'It's disappointing that the University doesn't hold their partners to the standards that they've set for themselves, because that sure seems like they're more concerned with appearances than genuine commitment.'
A third student agreed, while stating they felt that an ‘ethical bank’ was an ‘oxymoron.’ They said: ‘It would be good for the University and AUSA to stop using an unethical bank which has invested significantly in arms, but I’m sceptical that any ethical alternative will be found.’
When asked by The Gaudie how the University justified their involvement with the Bank of Scotland in light of their public commitment to ethical investments, and if they’d consider moving to a more ethical bank, such as Triodos or Monzo, a spokesperson sidestepped the question.
The spokesperson instead pointed The Gaudie to the University’s aforementioned sustainable investment policy. They then commented: ‘As with any supplier, the University regularly monitors and reviews its banking arrangements to ensure performance and contractual compliance, including against our sustainability policy.’