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Scottish Episcopal Synod: Investment returns offset losses

17 June 2022

Scottish Episcopal Church

The convener of the Investment Committee, Mark Harris

The convener of the Investment Committee, Mark Harris

THE Scottish Episcopal Church spent less in 2021, and made more from investments, than had been expected, leaving the finances in a better position than had been foreseen, its General Synod heard on Thursday of last week.

Sixty-eight per cent of the General Fund’s income was from investments, members heard, and only 23 per cent came from quota payments. This balance would, however, have to shift, although not as fast as was previously planned. On Saturday morning, the convener of the Standing Committee, Bridget Campbell, set out proposed quotas for 2023, revised down from plans that had been approved at the 2020 synod.

The phased increase towards gathering £750,000 from quota contributions would now be extended by an extra year to 2025, and a motion was carried to this effect.

The Standing Committee is budgeting for a substantial increase in the deficit for the General Fund next year, which is predicted to rise from £112,588 to £443,059. This would be funded “from surpluses generated in recent years”, the Synod was told.

On Friday, Mark Harris, convener of the Investment Committee, told the Synod: “You don’t need me to stand here in front of you and tell you that the last few months have been difficult and challenging. But I will: the last few months have been difficult and challenging.”

Mr Harris highlighted inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and rising interest rates as the reasons for a recent contraction in the value of the Unit Trust Pool (UTP).

The UTP was established to bring together the investments of the General Synod with those of dioceses and individual congregations. The recent drop in the price of units served had wiped out previous gains, Mr Harris explained.

The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), established by the Synod in 2019, delivered its final report, and a motion was carried, by 102-2, to adopt the group’s policy statement for the UTP. This included a framework for investigating ethical concerns, and the Standing Committee’s being charged with appointing a permanent advisory group on ethical investment.

Alan McClean QC, who chairs the EIAG, delivered the report and presented the policy statement over video link, having tested positive for Covid-19. He noted that the SEC was relatively unusual in deriving most of its funding from investment income, and this meant that it was crucial that ethical investment decisions be considered alongside the necessity of achieving healthy returns.

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