Holyrood bosses intervene as MSPs revolt over Russian pension investment

MSPs have ramped up the pressure on the manager of their pension fund to remove any  investments in Russia from it immediately over the invasion of Ukraine.

The MSPs who act as the trustees of the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme have tonight urged Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford to act in light of the “horrifying situation”.

It follows the Ferret investigative website revealing at the weekend that a pooled fund invested in by the Scheme had a £300,000 stake in Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank.

Russia’s largest financial institution, state-owned Sberbank has been targeted by the US Government in response to the invasion.

After growing cross-party calls for the pension scheme to disinvest, Holyrood’s cross party management group tonight demanded all Russian holdings in the scheme be ditched.

Writing as chair of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone wrote to the trustees of the scheme, who are also MSPs.

The MSP chairing the trustees, Labour’s Pauline McNeill, in turn wrote to Baillie Gifford on behalf of all scheme members seeking action.

In her letter to the trustees, the Presiding Officer said there was “significant concern” among MSPs over reports that the SPPS’s Managed Pension Fund had holdings in Sberbank. 

She said: “In light of the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, the SPCB collectively urges the Trustees to make representations to Baillie Gifford for the immediate divestment of all Russian holdings within the fund, and from any other fund in which member pension contributions are invested.

“We recognise that the SPCB cannot direct the Trustees in exercising its fiduciary duties on behalf of scheme members, but given the seriousness of the threat against our European neighbours, I am certain that all Members, past and present, will be supportive of such representations to Baillie Gifford.

“As a contributor to the fund, the SPCB would be grateful for your early update on Baillie Gifford’s response and an understanding of its future investment strategy with regard to Russian businesses.”

In turn, Ms MacNeill told Baillie Giffiord: “With the horrifying situation unfolding in Ukraine, the Fund Trustees are deeply concerned that the Baillie Gifford’s Managed Pension Fund has holdings in the state owned Russian bank Sberbank. 

“I recognise entirely the SPPS is one of many investors in the Managed Pension Fund, and as a pooled fund, we the Trustees cannot direct individual investments. 

“I am nevertheless writing to you in the strongest possible terms to request that Baillie Gifford divests immediately from Sberbank and all other Russian companies

“Similarly, I would ask that any such holdings in our other investment vehicles, the Diversified Growth Fund and Global Stewardship Fund, be divested as a matter of urgency.

“The appalling events in Ukraine make it incumbent upon all of us to stand against aggression and unlawful military action in any way we can.  Exerting economic pressure upon Russian financial institutions by divesting our pension holdings is an important step.”

Earlier, Green MSP Ross Greer tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the Sberbank holding to be removed.

A Baillie Gifford spokesperson: “We are complying with sanctions, but cannot comment on any trades that are in progress.”

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