Labour candidate calls for Lochaber smelter firm to be nationalised

The Alvance British Aluminium smelter at Fort William . Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos Alvance-smelter01-scaled.jpg
The Alvance British Aluminium smelter at Fort William . Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos Alvance-smelter01-scaled.jpg

Want to read more?

At the start of the pandemic in March we took the decision to make online access to our news free of charge by taking down our paywall. At a time where accurate information about Covid-19 was vital to our community, this was the right decision – even though it meant a drop in our income. In order to help safeguard the future of our journalism, the time has now come to reinstate our paywall, However, rest assured that access to all Covid related news will still remain free.

To access all other news will require a subscription, as it did pre-pandemic. The good news is that for the whole of December we will be running a special discounted offer to get 3 months access for the price of one month. Thank you for supporting us during this incredibly challenging time.

We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a  subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device.  In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.

Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).

Already a subscriber?

 

Subscribe Now

If the Lochaber smelter at Fort William was to be nationalised, as local  Scottish Labour Party candidate John Erskine is urging, then the local community would be well placed to take over ownership of the 114,000 acres of land that went with its original purchase from Rio Tinto by GFG Alliance.

The latter company, run by metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, is currently embroiled in controversy after the collapse of its main financial backer, Greensill Capital.

Greensill provided Mr Gupta with funding to acquire often under performing assets from the likes of Rio Tinto.

Mr Erskine, Scottish Labour Candidate for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch for the Scottish parliamentary elections in May, said the Lochaber smelter is vital to the Highlands and should be at the heart of any green economic recovery to the region as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Ensuring the future of strategic infrastructure sites, such as the smelter, is absolutely crucial to our economic recovery and should play a role in a new green industrial strategy for Scotland,’ he said.

Labour's John Erskine who will try and capture the seat from Ian Blackford. NO F42 John Erskine - Headshot
Labour’s John Erskine.

‘Whilst I hope that the sites owners are able to secure refinancing, the Scottish Government needs to work closely with the UK Government to ensure that whatever happens, jobs and the smelter site is secured.

‘We cannot afford to let these jobs go. Government has a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen, and the Scottish Government and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, need to be prepared to nationalise the Alvance Smelter site in Lochaber if necessary, to secure local jobs and the long-term future of the site.’

Asked if he thought nationalising the smelter was the way forward, John Hutchison, chairman of the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust which had originally wanted to enact a community buy out of the land at the time of the Rio Tinto sale,
said his view was that important major strategic assets should be in public ownership.

Mr Hutchison added: ‘Personally, I believe that strategic assets like harbours, airports and railways should be in public ownership, probably steel too.

‘If the smelter was to be nationalised, the Community Trust would be in a good, complementary position, to own and manage the land.’