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May 24, 2019

Church of Scotland Votes Against Divestment

This week, the Church of Scotland voted against a divestment motion aimed at oil and natural gas companies. The 303-263 tally deals another blow to worldwide divestment campaigns.

Even pro-divestment outlet The Guardian admitted the defeat, reporting:

“Although the general assembly voted to ‘recognize and affirm the declarations of the Scottish government, UK parliament and others that we are experiencing a climate and ecological emergency’ on Wednesday morning, a counter-motion to disinvest from oil and gas companies by 2020 was narrowly defeated.”

According to the Church’s website, it is invested in BP, Shell, and Total.

Catherine Alexander, chairman of the Church of Scotland Investors Trust, spoke out after the vote saying that divestment is the “wrong way.” Additionally, William Sutherland, an elder in Aberdeen who also voted against the motion, cited the role oil and gas plays in the country’s economy to the Church’s website.

“He said 85,000 people were paid off during the last downturn in the oil and gas industry and many were forced to use foodbanks. Mr. Sutherland said: ‘A balance has to be achieved and many of our members contribute considerably to the church.’”

It’s no surprise The Church of Scotland’s leadership said to no costly divestment. Oil & Gas UK, the industry’s trade association, says that more than 280,000 jobs are supported by oil & gas production. And the industry has paid £330 billion ($419 billion) in tax since 1970 – enough to fund the nation’s prized National Health Service for three years.

The decision also follows numerous rejections within the UK, notably the Church of England’s “fake divestment” move last summer by calling for divesting assets, but not actually taking any action to achieve that.