Ties cut

Baillie Gifford targeted by artists over Israel links

The Collective Edinburgh sits atop Calton Hill overlooking Baillie Gifford’s head office

A group of artists have severed ties with the asset manager Baillie Gifford after accusing it of activity that supports Israel.

The Collective gallery said its Satellites Programme for emerging artists would no longer accept sponsorship from the Edinburgh-based firm because of “concerns” raised by six participants.

The claim is said to be based on reports that Baillie Gifford has investments in a variety of international businesses which trade in Israel. They include Amazon and Booking.com.

The Collective is based on Calton Hill which overlooks Baillie Gifford’s head office in Leith Street. Baillie Gifford is understood to have donated £10,000 in the 12 months to March 2022 and March 2023 towards total annual income of about half a million pounds, mainly from Creative Scotland.

In a statement the gallery said it was grateful for the firm’s backing in recent years, adding: “Without this funding, we will not be able to continue Satellites in its current form. Over the coming months we will work with current Satellites artists to explore alternative ways forward.”

In a separate statement to the Edinburgh Minute blog, the six artists made clear their concerns “were around Baillie Gifford’s investments in companies complicit with the occupation and genocide in Palestine”.

The artists, named by the blog as Clarinda Tse, Emelia Kerr Beale, Hannan Jones, Josie KO, Katherine Fay Allan and Rowan Markson, added: “We call on Baillie Gifford to divest from these unethical investments and urge all art workers and institutions with an association with Baillie Gifford to refuse funding from them until they do so.”

Extinction Rebellion outside Baillie Gifford
Baillie Gifford was targeted by protestors in 2020 (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Their objection to Baillie Gifford was ridiculed by Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP, as “a display of intolerance and narrow-mindedness which should have no part in modern Scottish society”.

He added: “Many of the companies that Baillie Gifford invests in will also be involved in supplying Ukraine in their fight against Russian oppression, and for that they should be supported, not vilified.”

Mr Fraser said Baillie Gifford was a well respected Scottish business with an outstanding reputation for philanthropic support of the arts.

Baillie Gifford is no stranger to controversy. In January 2020 members of Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside its offices over its investments in fossil fuels. Last year, the author and activist Naomi Klein and the comedian Nish Kumar were among 150 literary professionals who took issue with its sponsorship of the Book Festival.

A Baillie Gifford spokesman said: “As a long-standing supporter of the arts, we funded the Collective’s satellite programme to help young emerging artists develop their skills. We are sorry it can’t continue.

“Baillie Gifford is a long-standing supporter of the arts and charities across Scotland. We remain committed to providing people with greater access to art and culture and supporting creative organisations that make a difference in our local community and beyond.”

The spokesman added: “The conflict is deeply distressing, and we have huge sympathy for the families of all the victims.

“We are committed to thoughtfully analysing the businesses we invest our clients’ money in and believe they should act responsibly and legally. We take this duty seriously and, like other firms in our industry, are guided by international sanctions.”

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