By Stephen McIlkenny
Edinburgh University has ceased a £1.2m investment in defence company Ultra Electronics, which provides components for US drones, stating that continued contributions from the university would not be justified due to the socially irresponsible nature of the business.
Continued pressure from the Edinburgh University Students Associated (EUSA), as well as pressure from independent campaign groups, has led to a cut off of funding from the university, after having invested just over £1.2m in 2012 alone.
Edinburgh University is the third largest investor in the UK behind Cambridge and Oxford with substantial amounts invested in more than one hundred companies, such as Total and Shell.
A spokeswoman for the University said: “Having taken on board concerns raised by EUSA, we have taken the decision to disinvest in Ultra Electronics.
“We are committed to socially responsible investment and are the first university in Europe to sign up to the UN principles of responsible investment.”
The move has been praised by many around campus and campaign groups.
Catherine Gilfedder, from Reprieve, has praised the university’s stance and asked others to follow Edinburgh’s lead. She said: “The covert US drone programme has killed hundreds of civilians and traumatised populations in Pakistan and Yemen.
“In divesting from Ultra Electronics, Edinburgh University has demonstrated its disapproval of companies profiting from such killings, and the importance of socially responsible investment.”
The use of drones is seen to be controversial by many, with the technology often being used in countries that are not at war with the United States.
This is seen by some as a violation of international law.
The UN is currently investigating the legality of drone attacks carried out by the United States in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Ultra Electronics has refused to name any of its customers but stated on the Edinburgh disinvestment: “Ultra Electronics is listed on the London Stock Exchange and as such, people and institutions are free to deal in the company’s shares as they wish.”