We held another series of public meetings in February, being eighteen in total since we started, including the earlier round to test community ideas. The purpose of the recent meetings, which over 100 attended, was to explain the steps that had been worked through during 2016 and to share the plan for the coming months.
While we were naturally disappointed to be unsuccessful in our attempt to buy the Estate we were very pleased indeed with an outcome that gives security for the Smelter. We always saw the interests of the Trust as being less important than retaining jobs and never wanted to do anything that would destabilise opportunities for the Smelter.
We have had considerable success through 2016 with the membership now at 1145, being 990 ordinary members, 146 associates and 9 junior members. We would very much like to see an increase in junior members (12-15 year olds) since our aims are far more about them than older generations. Please consider becoming a member if you haven’t already done so; it’s free and can be done on line here - alternatively, please contact us through the box on this website here.
At the handover from Rio Tinto Aluminium to GFG Liberty on 19th December the First Minister said, ”GFG’s ambitious and far-sighted approach will really benefit the local community and I am particularly pleased that GFG have agreed to engage with the community over a community land transaction. The fact that the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust now has over 1,000 members shows how the prospect of ownership can galvanize communities.”
Although the Scottish Government has a target of One Million Acres in community ownership by 2020 (600,000 acres so far) our political support is across the spectrum. Our directors are drawn from across that spectrum too but none is a member of a political party. Our aims are for community development and are not political.
So, given that we have some encouragement from GFG Liberty and have their assurance that they are a family owned, community-facing business we now press on with our aims. Being able to meet round a table rather than virtually across an ocean is a considerable advantage. Over the next few months we will continue to grow community backing and membership and work closely with the GFG Alliance, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Land Fund. The Scottish Government continues to emphasise the benefits of community ownership and its Million Acre target.
In order to introduce democracy into the Trust, which simply wasn’t possible initially because of the non-disclosure agreement and negotiations, we are now aiming for an EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) in April when all of the initial directors will resign but are permitted to stand again. We’ll shortly circulate the members to give details of the process for nominating directors and the EGM. We need 10% of the membership to be quorate at the EGM, which number includes proxies. The AGM will be around October to better fit with the financial year end and, in future, directors will stand down by rotation at annual general meetings in the usual way.
As we persevere with our aims for the land we wish GFG Liberty well with the Smelter and their expansion plans.