RBS faces mass 'blood oil' protests on day of AGM

28 Apr 2010

Protests are taking place today across the UK demanding RBS stops backing tar sands extraction with taxpayers' money. Protesters will be joined in Edinburgh by a First Nations woman who will question RBS bosses directly over the bank's involvement with tar sands firms destroying her community.

Tar sands in hands

RBS is backing the “world’s most destructive project” with public money

Taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will come under fire today as anti-poverty, human rights and environmental protesters gather across the UK to target the bank, on the day of its AGM.

People & Planet students and other protesters are demanding that the bank stops using public funds to finance ‘the most destructive and devastating companies in the world’, such as tar sands and mining companies because of the impact on indigenous communities and climate change.

Huge yellow digger for tar sands extraction

Canadian Tar Sands and public money

Between 2007 and 2009, RBS led the underwriting of loans for tar sands extraction projects in Canada worth more than $7.5 billion.

Tar sands are found in the ground in the form of bitumen mixed with sand, clay and water. They are the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels, and when refined, they leave giant poisonous lakes containing sand, water, silt, clay, hydrocarbons and toxic chemicals. In Alberta, Canada, high levels of dangerous toxins have been found in the Athabasca River, downstream from tar sands mining. The First Nation indigenous communities who live on this land are suffering daily from this pollution, despite regulations designed to protect human rights and the environment. Local rates of cancers and immune system disease are alarmingly high. Find out more

RBS has been involved in fossil fuel and tar sands related companies to the tune of over £10 billion and over £1 billion respectively since their first bail out in 2008.

Ian Leggett, director of People & Planet, argues:

“If this is allowed to continue it will completely wipe out the potential benefits from public investment of £1 billion in a Green Investment Bank as set out in this year’s Budget. This is the most flagrant case of throwing good money after bad.”

People & Planet and the World Development Movement have organised protests to take place simultaneously across the country in over 15 locations, including London, Cardiff, Sheffield, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

RBS AGM shareholder protest

In Edinburgh, shareholders can expect to be greeted by hundreds of students protesters and Canadian indigenous activist and campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network. Eriel Tchekwie Deranger will be inside the AGM to question executives directly about the impact of RBS tar sands investments on her community. She explained:

“UK taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. RBS is currently financing the largest and most destructive industrial project on the planet destroying my people, my community and my traditional lands. With strong government leadership, the bank should be adopting strong policies that respect free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities and ensures the protection of the environment and water. I hope the UK will put its money where its mouth is by pulling RBS’ business out of the tar sands.”

Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement said:

“It is unacceptable that our money is being used to finance projects that causes such serious harm to people’s lives. RBS is directly involved with financing tar sands related companies that are responsible for destroying Canadian Indigenous communities’ water, health and human rights. The government has flatly refused to stop RBS from making these unethical and immoral investments, which is a travesty.”

**Edinburgh student and active P&P group member, Ruth Cape, 21, said:

“The fate of my generation is bound up with the First Nation peoples of Alberta. The same tar sands extraction which is killing them now risks runaway climate change within my lifetime. Our money should be invested in green jobs building a low carbon economy, not squandered in poisonous tar sands.”

Vedanta Resources Ltd

Since 2004, RBS has provided extensive financial support to the UK-based mining company Vedanta Resources Ltd - one of the biggest mining companies in the world - with loans totaling more than $150 million and letters of credit worth $100 million.

Flouting environmental regulations, Vedanta built a large aluminium refinery in the resource-rich but poverty-stricken Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa, India. The refinery displaced local communities and gave compensation only to those who owned land, leaving the poorest with next to nothing. 5,000 people live around the refinery, and rely on water from the nearby Vamsadhara River. Official reports show recurring pollution from the refinery of the water and air. Local communities, who use the river for washing and bathing, have complained of rashes, blisters and other skin ailments as a result. Despite this, Vedanta is planning to increase the size of the plant six-fold. Find out more

For more information and interview requests, please call Ian Leggett on 01865 245678 or Louise Hazan 07711 031874

Get involved


Protest from 8.30am meet at Royal Exchange, contact Louise Hazan on 07711 031874

Campaigners from the World Development Movement and People & Planet will be protesting at Threadneedle Street, a RBS branch in the heart of the City from 8.30am. They will be using a dramatic ‘tar sands digger’ on a tour of the RBS branch, the Treasury and the House of Commons to highlight the need to ‘Get our money out of blood oil now’.

Across the UK:

Protests will be held outside RBS branches on day of the AGM in: Cardiff, Bath, Sheffield, Kendal, Coventry, Cambridge, Preston and Bexhill, Bath, Loughborough, Chester, Glasgow

On Saturday 24 April protests were held in: St Albans, Clapham South London, Stoke on Trent, Loughborough, Macclesfield, Croydon, Nottingham and Oxford and Manchester

Edinburgh Protest outside the RBS AGM:

Where: EICC, Morrison Street, Edinburgh When: Wednesday 28th April 2010 Date: 12 Noon til 1pm

Public shareholders will be protesting outside the RBS AGM, demanding an end to public money financing projects and companies that cost the earth and human lives. They will be joined by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, First Nations spokeswoman and activist from Canada, who will be sharing her first-hand experiences of the devastation caused by RBS’s investment policies.

RBS Public Shareholder Meeting: Because it’s our bank now!:

Where: Mercure Point Conference Centre, Bread Street, Edinburgh
When: Wednesday 28th April
Time: 6pm til 8pm.

Chaired by Rob Edwards, speakers include:

  • Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Canadian First Nation activist and tar sands campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network

  • Simon Chambers, social justice campaigner and director of ‘Cowboys in India’ a documentary of Vedanta’s human rights abuses in India.

  • Richard Gauld, founder and MD of Orkney Sustainable Energy

  • Kevin Smith, climate & finance Campaigner, PLATFORM, author of “Cashing in on Tar Sands: RBS, UK Banks and Canada’s Blood Oil.”

Register for the event

As part of the event, members of the public are asked to submit their own “AGM Motions”

The protests are being supported by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Rainforest Action Network

Background Information

In 2008-2009, the UK Government used £45.5 billion of public money to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland. The public now own 84% of RBS shares.

A large coalition of groups, including People & Planet, PLATFORM, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Amnesty International Scotland, SEAD, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network and the World Development Movement Scotland are also organising an alternative Public Shareholders AGM to focus attention on the shocking impact of tar sands extraction and mining on Indigenous communities.

See more case studies on RBS investments in fossil fuels