I want to make it clear from the outset that these guidelines do not affect Scotland, where the regulation of public procurement and public pension schemes is devolved to the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government regulations on local authority public procurement have taken a much more considerate approach to this matter, with due regard given to the need for prudent financial investments as well as valid social, environmental and ethical considerations.
We have seen some excellent examples of sustainable investment of local government pension funds by local authorities in Scotland – last year the Falkirk Local Government Pension Scheme Fund awarded fund manager Hearthstone Investments £30 million to invest in social and affordable housing in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Regeneration Committee has praised Scottish local authorities for undertaking ‘informal collaborations’, which are working extremely well because of ‘a willingness to work together for a shared vision and benefit’. These kinds of collaborations for mutual and sustainable benefit are extremely important. Investment in housing is one option that the SNP Government in Scotland are keen to see these pension funds explore, but we recognise that there needs to be a balance between encouraging that approach and paying due regard to the responsibility of scheme mangers to invest pension fund moneys in accordance with the scheme managers’ fiduciary duty.
The regulations which you mention in your email apply to England & Wales and my SNP colleague Ian Blackford MP participated in a debate on this matter last week in Parliament. He urged the UK Government to seriously reflect on the results of their consultation, and see that in making the changes they want to make they need a wide body of support that takes account of concerns across the sector. Fundamentally, it is vital that the UK Government work in partnership with local authority pension funds to ensure the best outcomes.