Jewel in the crown of the national park
Jewel in the crown of the national park

THE FUTURE of angling on Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s biggest tourist assets and the jewel in the crown of the country’s first national park, is set for an acrimonious debate this week following a long-running feud over management of its lucrative salmon and trout fishing.

Insults and allegations of financial mis-management have been hurled across the bonnie banks and on website forums for months while anglers complain that the reputation of the river and loch system, once one of Scotland’s prime game fishing venues, is being badly damaged.

One owner of salmon fishing on the River Endrick, the main tributary of the loch said: “Loch Lomond as a fishery has lost its respect with public bodies like Scottish Natural Heritage and to some extent the angling association has lost its way.”

On Thursday, an emergency meeting of the 600-strong membership of the historic Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association (LLAIA) has been called following repeated attempts over the last 18 months by a breakaway group to force a change of management.

The factor of Luss Estates, Ian Chivas has agreed to act as an independent chairman for what is set to be a highly-charged meeting in Glasgow.  LLAIA has issued documentation running to more than 40 pages for the gathering.

In March the LLAIA annual meeting broke up in disarray following a vote of no confidence in the committee and the breakaway group attempted to set up an alternative management team.

The battle escalated last week when the rebel anglers launched their own website with a domain name almost identical to the association’s official site, in an effort to increase public and member support.

One one bank stands the breakaway group, who published their own development strategy for Loch Lomond angling at the beginning of the year. They claim they have not seen fully audited accounts since 2003/04, that catch returns are incomplete, and that their legitimate requests for changes to the LLAIA constitution have been rejected, sometimes by “devious” means.

On the opposite bank, the LLAIA through its paid-chairman, Michael Brady, says he and his committee have been subjected to a campaign of  “smears and lies” and there is no chance of any reconciliation with the breakaway group.

Stewart Inglis, a Clydebank teacher and LLAIA member for 26 years, has put himself forward as the new secretary of the association.  He says:

“We have a core group of about 10, largely made up of professionals like myself.  We have serious doubts about some key aspects of the restocking policy, particularly the smolt programme, but our main concerns are about the lack of transparency in the management of the association. We are deeply concerned that the membership overall is not being kept aware of the exact details of the LLAIA finances.”

The LLAIA, a club whose membership limit of 1000 was over-subscribed in the 1980s, has seen a persistent decline in support in recent times.  Full members have fallen by 23% to 443 in the last 10 years according to the rebel group, despite positive efforts such as bailiffing, restocking and habitat management to restore fishing quality.

Catches of salmon are reported to have declined dramatically, as they have in other Scottish river systems, although there has been a resurgence recently in sea trout numbers aided by a voluntary catch and release policy by anglers.

But sales of permits and season tickets, which this season rose to £15 day and £175 a year respectively, still generate a substantial six-figure income. LLAIA’s Brady, who also acts as secretary, said:

“When I took over as chairman 12 years ago we had a debt of £63,000. Now we have a fishery reserve of £250,000 and have bought four stretches of the River Endrick.

“There is a small group who want to get their hands on the fishery reserve, spend it willy-nilly and cut permit costs on the River Leven.  We have been subjected to a smear campaign with completely untrue stories and lies being spread on internet forums and such like.

“There have been suggestions that money is going somewhere it should not. Every single penny in the LLAIA can be accounted for.  We have made massive improvements in the finances and have invited the group to come and look through the accounts.  They are afraid to come. There is no chance of reconciliation.”

He says the LLAIA is backed by a professional fishery manager and points out that catches of sea trout, one of Scotland’s most threatened game species, were 518 last year and 520 in 2007.   Brady added: “These are excellent results which will stand comparison anywhere. Salmon returns are not what they were in the 1980s, but we have studied regeneration programmes in Ireland and are now starting a smolt restocking programme.”

LLAIA, formed 100 years ago by the celebrated writer Henry Lamond, leases the majority of salmon, trout and coarse fishings on the loch and its important catchment rivers like the Leven and Endrick, from around 40 riparian owners. These include its vice president, the Duke of Montrose and, until his death earlier this year, its honorary president Sir Ivor Colquhoun of Luss Estates.

Some LLAIA members are outraged that the association has allowed itself to become embroiled in an ugly dispute when it should have been promoting itself to visitors during the Year of Homecoming celebrations.  Gary Weir, author of the alternative strategy plan for the loch, said:

“I put what together is a draft report because the LLAIA does not have a public development plan and we think it is necessary for there to be a clear and accountable policy for the loch and its rivers.

“The present situation has become an embarrassment and should never have been allowed to happen. What have the riparian owners who lease the fishing to the LLAIA been thinking about?  And what have they been doing?”

One prominent owner has conceded it may be time for change. Jonathan Henson, rural affairs director of Savills the estate agents, owns a stretch of the River Endrick and is a member of the Loch Lomond Riparian Owners Group. He said Loch Lomond as a fishery had lost its respect with public bodies like Scottish Natural Heritage and the LLAIA had “lost its way” to an extent.

He said: “”Although the owners are fragmented, there is potential for creating a formal district salmon board.” But he stressed that this should be done through the existing association.  “Personalities have to be put to one side. The association has stood the test of time and has, on balance, been quite a cohesive organisation operating in difficult circumstances.  I support it.”

In My Opinion

5 Responses

  • intellectualprotection

    Your link to the LLAIA’s website is not correct. It should be

    Also, why no mention of the fact that this was started when Stewart Inglis was expelled from the LLAIA committee for leaking information about proposed purchases to the River Leven angling club, the Voldac?

    I didn’t see many people jumping to be on the committee when the LLAIA was near bankrupt, but now it has some money there is a few who think they know best how to spend it.

    On Thursday the LLAIA will have to decide if it is going to be run for the good of the whole system or for the Leven. The future of the LLAIA is at stake.

  • Gordon Mack

    The typo in the link has been fixed. Apologies.

  • macdunbhreton

    Sorry if I am mistaken Intellectualprotection (Truely a misnomer if supporting the removal of websites and ideas), but reading between the lines I suggest you may well be a member of the deposed comittee or at least in some way connected to it.
    It may also have escaped your collective notice, but the insults and smears seem to any observer been flung in both directions but certainly the former chairperson was free with less than complimentary descriptions of members at public forums. As for this claim of anonimity of criticisms by the use of online identities, it may well have escaped your notice that since the birth of web sites and forums, contributors have operated under nom de plumes…but then again is that reflective of the standard scatter gun approach employed to devalue the character and contribution of those criticising the committee voted out at the last AGM?
    I do agree with you in the suggestion that there were individuals contributing to the RRB site with less than gentlemanly language. I and a number of other fishers and contributors (Very much the 99% majority), were quick to raise the question of the decency and veracity of their postings.
    However I would propose that almost all the of the contributions were valid, honest and to the best of their ability helpful.
    I, or any of my reasoned fellow contributors, at no point had a post removed despite being contrary to the gentleman or his cohorts opinions.
    To remove a site because of one or two individuals reeks of fear. Fear that the truth or criticism might out. It may well be the biggest own goal in the history of the LLAIA. Come Thursday I certainly hope so.
    The RRB site was not just composed of opinions. There were extensive postings related to water levels catches, tackle, methodology, local updates and other information. Unlike the unresponsive and occasionally derogatory LLAIA site.
    I am a LLAIA member and have been for a number of years. It is in my interest and that of my fellows that the association is run in a competent manner under a benign and responsive leadership.
    The language used by those individuals you cite on the RRB site is not unlike the present Chairman/Secretary/Chief executive, (have I missed any self appointed Napoleonic titles?) has used publicly against the membership. In what way would that resolve (or attempt to resolve)schism?
    It seems to me the last resort is to continue a strategy of divide and rule in attempt to firstly to continue to coin in a wage and secondly as a crude Machiavellian device in a bid to hold on to power. (Do you realise that the alternative intend to end the payment to officials and plough it back in to the association?).
    I’m afraid the shutting down of the RRB site is only the latest attempt to stop members full and associate, communicating their reservations, criticisms and information between one and other.
    The quicker that a ‘professional’ forward thinking executive is elected the better. Or will a few hundred ‘members’ crawl out of the woodwork come Thursday night? Mmmmmm I wonder….

  • stewartinglis

    Also, why no mention of the fact that this was started when Stewart Inglis was expelled from the LLAIA committee for leaking information about proposed purchases to the River Leven angling club, the Voldac?

    Firstly, let’s deal with VOLDAC. It is quite simple really, Vale of Leven and District Angling Club. No mention of the River Leven!!

    To say it was started by me may be correct to an extent. However, as the saying goes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and this is clearly what you have. If I were to inform the readers of this blog all of the facts I would be here all night.

    The main reason this all kicked off was due to the chairman of LLAIA going to purchase a £26,000 camera. As the VOLDAC rep on the LLAIA comittee, I was duty bound to inform the members of VOLDAC committee. At no time was I ever told that this was sensitive information, this can be backed up by two of the committee who were there on the night it was tabled. This information then found its way onto a public web forum and the rest is history.

  1. Riparian owners hold the key for Lomond « Between The Lines  11/05/2009

    […] Insults and smears . . .   […]

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