The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is being threatened with a student boycott over its multi-billion-pound investments in climate-wrecking oil and gas projects around the world.
The threat comes in the wake of a new report attacking RBS's record on funding polluting pipelines and production plants. The bank has been accused of going on a "destructive binge with potentially devastating consequences for the planet".
In response, RBS has tried to discredit the report and suggested that there was still scientific debate about the causes of climate change. Its chief economist, Andrew McLaughlin, has agreed to meet the report's authors this month.
RBS is one of Scotland's most successful companies, a global brand recognised by millions. Two weeks ago it announced record profits of more than £9 billion.
But it has angered environmentalists because it has large investments in oil and gas projects which emit carbon dioxide, one of the main causes of global warming. RBS has been marketing itself as "the oil and gas bank".
Carbon pollution from the projects amounted to almost 37 million tonnes in 2005, the report claims, more than total expected emissions from Scotland. This is more than a hundred times higher than the pollution for which RBS accepts responsibility.
Mika Minio-Paluello, lead author of the report, accused RBS of "sticking its head in the sand". He demanded that the bank cap its oil and gas investments and cease funding the most polluting forms of oil exploitation.
"If the bank is unwilling to reduce its climate change impacts, we will be forced to call on students and young people to pledge not to bank with RBS or its subsidiary NatWest," he told the Sunday Herald.
Bronwen Thomas of the student environmental group People and Planet said climate change was a "massive issue", like apartheid in the 1980s. "Soon the oil and gas bank' might find their young customers switching to more climate-friendly alternatives," she said.
RBS, however, disputed the report's findings and methodology. "We strongly question the integrity of this report," said a spokeswoman. "We do not recognise a number of the projects mentioned."
She said RBS had no direct involvement in some of the projects highlighted in the report and argued that the bank could not be blamed for pollution caused by projects which it did fund.
The spokeswoman added: "It is absurd to ascribe the blame for emissions for all our lending decisions at the door of RBS. Using this logic we would also have to take into account every car loan and mortgage."
There was still "debate" among scientists about the causes of global warming, she said. She pointed out that RBS invested £1bn in green energy last year, more than any other bank.
"The bulk of our oil and gas funding is within the UK, where the energy sector has played an important role in the economies of both Scotland and the UK, supporting over 330,000 jobs," she added.
But the criticisms were repeated by Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland. "The polluting emissions RBS are responsible for are on course to dwarf that of Scotland as a nation. It's time for RBS to stop profiting from pollution," he said.