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'The salvation of this district and far beyond' : aluminium production and the politics of highland development

Perchard, Andrew (2013) 'The salvation of this district and far beyond' : aluminium production and the politics of highland development. Northern Scotland, 4. pp. 43-65. ISSN 0306-5278

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Abstract

Giving evidence before the House of Commons sub-committee considering the Lochaber Water Power Bill of 1921 – the statutory instrument for the establishment of the British Aluminium Company Ltd’s third Highland aluminium smelter and hydro-electric power scheme – the former Provost of Fort William, Colin Young, declared: ‘I am a whole hearted supporter of this scheme for in it I see the salvation of this district and far beyond.’1 British Aluminium’s other developments in the west Highlands – their two other smelters at Foyers and Kinlochleven (opened respectively in 1896, and between 1907 and 1909), as well as the Company’s large estates, housing and hydro-electric schemes – had already amply demonstrated both the profound economic and social impact both locally and on the region as a whole. This article is principally concerned with exploring the economic and social significance of the aluminium industry to the Highlands and Islands, and its importance to the wider political economy of regional development. These developments and activities are considered in relation to corporate ‘social action’ and political activity, appraising the motivations and strategies affecting the wider activities of the British Aluminium Company (BACo) in the region. The negotiations are examined within the context of a ‘moral economy’, alongside the political economic, balancing moral judgements, and local customs and norms, against commercial deliberations