One of the lies sold to communities is the myth of benefit through financial contributions to the community. Scottish Coal, as part of their Section 75 legal agreement with South Lanarkshire Council contribute 25p per tonne of coal mined to the Rural Communities Trust, or in the case of Mainshill, the Mainshill Trust.
If you’re looking for corruption and conflict of interest, look no further. 25p per tonne is apparently not index linked, and is the same levie that was first agreed for Glentaggart, in 2000. That means that this contribution hasn’t changed in over 10 years. What other financial contribution stays the same over that length of time, despite inflation and, of course, hugely inflated coal prices?
Here’s an example. If Glentaggart East goes ahead (which, unless a small revolution takes place in South Lanarkshire and councilors and driven out with pitchforks, it will), Scottish Coal will contribute 25p per tonne for 4 million tonnes, so £1 million, to the Rural Communities Trust. However, if the contribution were pegged to the price of coal, which it surely should be, the contribution would be more like £1.75 per tonne given how much coal prices have increased since 2000.
That would net the Rural Communities Trust £7 million, and a more acceptable contribution to the community. So where’s the missing £6 million from the equation? Adding to Scottish Coal’s profit margin, part of its executives Christmas bonuses, and into the pockets of shareholders. So who does this deal really benefit, the community or Scottish Coal?
So what about what’s happening now? As part of the Section 75 agreement for Mainshill Open Cast, a separate trust has been set up specifically for Douglas, with a 25p per tonne contribution from Scottish Coal going into it, instead of the Rural Communities Trust. This means that the wider community can’t benefit from the contributions. Surely Scottish Coal should be contributing to BOTH trusts, no? Apparently the Council doesn’t think so. Once again, who does this arrangement benefit? Scottish Coal.
Next, of course, is the Rural Communities Trust itself (and the Mainshill Trust for that matter). These are supposed to be controlled by the community, so that the community can benefit from the money going into them. In reality, they are controlled by Scottish Coal and the Council, or at least most of the trustees are from these two organisations. So if Scottish Coal and the Council control the contributions rate, the destination of the funds, and the funds themselves, where is the community control or benefit? And surely that’s one hell of a conflict of interest!
As Gordon Cameron (Headquarters Manager for the Council) said recently: “I can’t discuss the Mainshill Trust or be involved in it, that would be a conflict of interest”. If only he realised the irony in that statement.