11 November 2016
Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government which (a) ministers and (b) officials have attended the meetings of the Regional Economic Development Joint Working Group set up by Rio Tinto to examine economic development opportunities in the Fort William area; whether it has been given sight of the group’s minutes; when the group last met, and what information it has regarding whether the group is providing input into the company’s review of its Highland estate and assets.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government, through is agencies Highlands and Island Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, has been represented at the meetings of the Regional Economic Development Joint Working Group set up by Rio Tinto, to examine economic development opportunities in the Fort William area. Minutes of the meetings are shared with members of the Joint Working Group, the group last met on the 6 September 2016 and is due to meet again on the 6 December.
Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what information it has regarding how many bidders are being considered by Rio Tinto to buy some or all of the company’s Highland estate and assets and whether it has information regarding what the status is of any talks between the company and the bidders.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government and Rio Tinto’s Lochaber workforce were informed on 21 October 2016 that as an outcome of the strategic review the Rio Tinto Board had agreed to consider a sale of its Lochaber assets and that discussions with a potential buyer would begin. The Government understands that a sale of the assets is not automatic and confidential commercial negotiations are on-going. While the commercial process continues all parties are bound to respect strict boundaries of commercial confidentiality.
Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity last spoke with officials of Rio Tinto regarding the sale of some or all of the company’s Highland estate and assets. (S5W-4158)
Fergus Ewing: The Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity met with senior representatives of Rio Tinto regarding the company’s Lochaber strategic review on 4 October 2016. Subsequently on 21 October, Rio Tinto announced to its Lochaber workforce that the company’s Board had agreed to consider a sale of its Lochaber assets.
Rhoda Grant: To ask the Scottish Government who it has met from Rio Tinto in connection with the sale of some or all of the company’s Highland estate and assets, and whether it has offered the company (a) financial and (b) other support.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government has met with a range of representatives of Rio Tinto, both from the Lochaber business (Rio Tinto Alcan) and from the parent company. In discussions with Rio Tinto the Government has signalled its willingness to explore options of assistance in the maintenance and creation of employment in Lochaber in the context of promoting sustainable economic growth.
Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government whether it has been consulted by Rio Tinto regarding the sale of the Lochaber smelter.
Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have maintained dialogue with Rio Tinto throughout the Lochaber strategic review with a view to securing the best outcome for the workers and local community. We are hopeful that Lochaber smelter will be sold as a going concern and that aluminium production at Fort William, which begun in 1929, will continue for many generations to come.