- 6 Mar 2018
FOI reference: FOI/18/00307
Date received: 1 February 2018
Date responded: 1 March 2018
If any Scottish Government ministers or other official representatives of the Scottish Government met with trustees or other members of the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust to discuss the latter's intention to lodge a formal application under the community right to buy legislation in respect of the 100,000 acres of land involved in the sale of the former Rio Tinto aluminium smelter at Fort William - now owned by GFG Alliance/British Liberty Aluminium - and if at any meeting Scottish Government ministers or its representatives made a request or a suggestion to the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust NOT to submit such a right to buy application.
Secondly, I would like to know if GFG Alliance or its subsidiary British Liberty Aluminium or any other GFG Alliance subsidiary or its representatives made any request to the Scottish Government to intervene and for the government to make a request to the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust to NOT proceed with a community buy out bid for the estates land that went with the Lochaber smelter sale at Fort William.
As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
The answers to your questions are:
Scottish Government officials, from the Community Land Team, who administer the Community Right to Buy (CRtB) legislation, have met representatives from East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust (ELLCT) on a number of occasions with regards to ELLCT preparing CRtB applications.
Officials met representatives of the ELLCT in July 2016 to discuss the processes and procedures relating to the community right to buy legislation and in October 2016 to give guidance in relation to the mapping requirements of the legislation, in order that a complete application be submitted.
Throughout this period we worked closely with ELLCT and viewed a number of draft applications for which we provided comments and guidance to assist ELLCT in supplying an application. Please note that these draft applications were in relation to the Estate land and did not include the smelter or hydro sites. Scottish Government officials have not been asked by GFG Alliance or any of its subsidiaries to intervene and request that ELLCT do not submit a CRtB application for the estates land that went with the Lochaber smelter sale at Fort William. The decision to not submit a CRtB application was for ELLCT to determine and the Community Land Team will continue to support ELLCT should they decide that they wish to pursue a CRtB application in the future.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House