Fears persist ahead of BCLC’s latest EGM

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A SECOND extraordinary general meeting of Bute Community Land Company is now only a week away – but it appears that some members’ concerns over the actions of the company’s board of directors are some way from being dispelled.

The EGM, at the Pavilion cafe on Thursday, May 16, will ask BCLC members to vote on whether the company should adopt its Strategic Plan.

But a number of members – several of whom were signatories to the request for an EGM last month to “discuss and agree together the direction and scope of the activities of the company” - have expressed worries this week that the Strategic Plan is not suitable for adoption because, rather than being a plan, it is only a statement of aspirations.

A 900-word statement has been prepared by some of those concerned members, stating why they believe next Thursday’s EGM should vote against the adoption of the Strategic Plan.

We understand that BCLC’s board are to be asked to circulate that statement to all members under the terms of the Companies Act – although as this issue of The Buteman went to press, the statement, and a list of signatories, had yet to be sent to the company’s directors.

The persistent concerns of those behind the statement were summed up by Alison Clarke, who was also one of the 27 members who requested last month’s EGM.

She told us: “The Strategic Plan, in my view, is neither strategic, nor is it a plan. There are lots of things in it that we could agree are good aspirations, but it doesn’t set out what the directors plan to do, how they plan to do it or how they will measure their successes.”

BCLC members have also been told that no amendments will be accepted at next week’s EGM, and the only vote taken will be on whether to adopt the Strategic Plan.

Those wishing to vote by proxy have also been asked to indicate in advance which way they intend to vote.

“The board wants us to adopt a document which gives them a completely open mandate to do whatever they like without coming back to the members,” Alison continued.

“I think that’s a dangerous thing to do to any group. I’m not suggesting anything illegal or immoral is going on, but I think having someone watching you is an important curb on any group’s activities.

“We are being painted as troublemakers, and I can’t tell you how much I resent that. I’m asking perfectly legitimate questions and I’m not getting answers.”

Dorothy McDonald, who wrote to The Buteman after last month’s EGM welcoming the steps being taken to address members’ concerns, told us this week she felt uncomfortable about being asked to vote for or against a plan with which she did not completely agree.

“I was positive after the EGM,” she said, “because the board said they were going to look at things again and have a proper discussion about the strategic plan.

“I was a wee bit concerned when I eventually got my invitation to the EGM on the 16th – it said you could only vote for or against the adoption of the Strategic Plan, and that if you wanted to have a proxy vote you had to say how you would be voting.

“To me, having a discussion about the plan, and coming to an agreement on its contents, is a different thing to saying whether we agree with this wholesale or not.

“This is not about something relatively straightforward, like changing the name of the company. This is about voting on a whole strategy – which, when you read it, isn’t a strategy, it’s more of a statement of a vision.

“There’s a lot in it that I can’t agree with, and so I feel there’s no alternative for me but to vote against it.

“The last thing I want to do is be publicly negative. We all want this to work.

“But the strategic plan is, I feel, just nice words, and the members are basically being asked to give the board ‘carte blanche’ to do what it wants within those nice words.

“I’m trying to be positive but it’s very difficult to understand why they just want to continue along this road.”

BCLC chairman John McGhee told us the company’s directors felt it was important to have a clear vote one way or another on the Strategic Plan.

“We thought long and hard about it,” Mr McGhee said, “and there were three reasons why we decided not to accept any amendments at next week’s EGM.

“First, it can lead to all sorts of confusion and practical difficulties if you are asking people to vote on lots of different amendments for different parts of the plan.

“Second, we felt that it would cause difficulty for those who intend to vote by proxy, and who therefore may not have enough time to consider amendments before the meeting.

“Thirdly, we felt the right thing to do was to have a really clean vote on what should be the scope of BCLC’s activities and ambitions.

“At the last EGM a number of people said we need to have a vote soon on the Strategic Plan, and next week’s meeting has been arranged within only one or two days of the first available date.

“Our informal soundings are that the Strategic Plan has been very well received by the majority of people, and we felt that we needed a very clear vote on the plan one way or the other.”