LOCH Duart CEO Alban Denton said there is a symbiotic relationship between the company and the community. ‘We cannot succeed without the community and while I would hesitate to put the words into other people’s mouths, it feels that the local community would be a poorer place if it wasn’t for Loch Duart, both in terms of the employment we offer and our investment, sponsorship and support.’
The salmon farmer’s contribution to the areas it farms, in Sutherland and the Uists, includes financial support for local groups and projects, including improvements to the village hall, funding for a lifeboat station, a range of school projects and the main sponsorship for Hebridean mountain biker and championships hopeful Kerry MacPhee.
Last year, the company established the Salmon Pool fund, in conjunction with Cargill, its feed supplier, as part of its continued community commitment.
The principal aim of the Salmon Pool is to provide financial support to organisations for projects which bring tangible benefits to the local
communities of Sutherland and Uist.
The idea is that every time Loch Duart buys feed, a proportion of the cost goes into a pot for the community fund and people can apply for specific projects.
So far, more than £30,000 has been distributed, and there is ‘a very good turnaround’, said Rebecca MacInnes, Loch Duart’s HR manager and its representative on the fund.
‘I believe that Salmon Pool is making a fabulous impact,’ said MacInnes.
‘A lot of local groups or causes can’t get what they’re looking for from other sources until they’ve spent the money. However, we can, and often do, release the money quickly.’ Among the initiatives to receive support are: • £1,396 to Scourie Primary School to provide outdoor clothing and learning equipment so the children can optimise the educational potential of their local environment; • £2,358 to Durness Golf Club, available to all residents in North West Sutherland for new equipment; • £3,336 to North Uist United Juniors Foot
ball Club for new equipment; • £10,000 to Scourie Community Council to enhance the community play park and replace equipment; • £1,500 to Connect Assynt to extend the community transport service for isolated people and vulnerable adults; • £4,000 to Scourie anf Badcall Grazings Committee to complete the footpath network within the woodlands adjacent to Scourie village; • £750 to North Sutherland Sportive for the
hall fees for juitsui; • £3,239 to Lochinver Public Hall to enhance
the exterior of the hall; • £1,500 to Kinlochbervie Primary School to give Downs Syndrome children the experience of working with horses, from learning to care from animals to learning to ride; • £2,000 to Uist Coastal Rowing Club to
wards the build of a new skiff boat; • £1,500 to Community Care Assynt to pur
chase a defibrillator. Loch Duart ‘celebration plaques’ are given to each project supported by the fund. Loch Duart has committed to the programme for three years initially but it will hopefully be extended, said MacInnes.
Even before the Salmon Pool, though, Loch Duart donated to local groups.
‘We’ve always played a big part in both communities [in Sutherland and the Hebrides]. Very rarely do we ever refuse anything,’ said MacInnes, who has been with Loch Duart from the beginning.
A Scourie local herself, she is on the Scourie hall committee and the Scourie gala committee, all on different nights of the week.
There might not be much time for herself but, she said, ‘it’s a small community so you take part in these things’.
She also makes regular trips to the Uists, via the ferry from Uig on Skye to the Loch Duart offices at Lochmaddy, and said there are good relationships with the community there too.
MacInnes came to Loch Duart 20 years ago for two weeks’ work experience in the hatchery and decided to stay on when they were short staffed in the office.
She worked her way up and was appointed the company’s first HR boss three years ago, overseeing many changes since then.
There are more opportunities now, and new departments- cleaner fish, for example - with jobs that didn’t exist not so long ago.
People are staying in the company for longer, staff are more dedicated and want to make a career out of it.
The two highlights, she said, were, firstly, the transformation of the culture in the business, which has created engagement, a positive ‘can do’ spirit and a real pride in the business, its salmon and its brand.
And, secondly, the improvement in remuneration packages, with everybody now on living wage rates of no less than £9 an hour- and the introduction of a profit sharing scheme for employees.
There are training options for staff through UHI, including open learning courses and training on site, and every individual has their own personal development programme.
In March, Loch Duart won silver accreditation from IIP (Investors in People), a ‘great achievement’, said Alban Denton, who has now set MacInnes and her team the goal of getting gold next year.
“A lot of these groups can’t get what they’re looking for and we can release the money really quickly”
Left: Rebecca MacInnes Above: North Uist United Juniors Football Club- the team received Salmon Pool funding