In bed with the arms industry
Often the University of Glasgow as an institution can feel like a monolithic, conscienceless, omnipotent entity, yet on 8 October 2014, the University became the first academic institution in Europe to divest from fossil fuels. Suddenly, this entity showed it has ethics. Well, at first glance. Recently The Daily Record published an article showing how Scottish universities shockingly continue to have considerable investment in arms companies.
With £1.3 million invested by Glasgow University in firms like BAE and QinetiQ, the University seems to have turned off its moral compass when it comes to serious arms dealers. BAE, the world’s 3rd largest arms dealer, is such a highly controversial and seemingly corrupt company, it is sickening to think that a student’s fees could be going into their pockets. BAE has been under multiple investigations by the Serious Fraud Office; as recent as 2010 it paid £257m criminal fines to the US and £30m to the UK for overseas corruption, but Glasgow University is happy to pump money into this while simultaneously stating: “the University has a very clear socially responsible policy on investment and we regularly review all of our investments.”
BAE has military customers in over 100 countries and has had numerous deals with Saudi Arabia, a country that the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked 163rd out of 167 countries in its 2012 “democracy index”. It was assessed as more authoritarian than Burma, Iran, and Turkmenistan. The notorious Al-Yamamah arms deals saw numerous arms being sold to Saudi Arabia, including armoured vehicles used to suppress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in March 2011. Despite this, BAE have reconstructed new arms deals with Saudi Arabia last year. It seems ludicrous that the University can claim to be so meticulous about democracy and transparency on its own campus, all the while supplying copious amounts of money to a company that helps strengthen autocracy.
QinetiQ specialises in developing new killer-tech, such as Ballistic Missiles, and has made military export requests to Israel, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Bahrain, none of which are well known for being particularly peaceful and conflict-free countries.
What is most worrying is how the University has stated in the past: “The one business activity in which the University should continue to instruct its fund managers not to invest is the tobacco industry; as such an investment runs entirely counter to the University’s direct interests in research.” One does not need the Simpsons-esque scream of “think of the children!” to realise that investing in arms dealing is wrong. So why be so ethical when it comes to the tobacco and fossil-fuel industry, yet turn a disgustingly blind eye to arms? The University seems to have fallen down at the last, and most obvious hurdle.
Do we really need another 12 months of campaigns and student protests like the Climate Action Society did for divestment? Does the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) need to start picketing when BAE comes to careers fairs? Or could the University realign its moral compass and divest from arms; not for the publicity or because it’s being heckled into doing so, but because it’s the right thing to do.