Pressure on Holyrood
Rennie demands Gupta guarantees disclosure
The Scottish government has been asked whether it will follow UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng by withdrawing guarantees offered to steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta
Following an investigation, the state-owned British Business Bank recommended Mr Kwarteng terminate guarantees on £400m of loans Greensill Capital made to companies linked to Mr Gupta.
Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie has now called on the Scottish Government to set out the steps that it is taking to protect Scottish public finances and the taxpayer over similar arrangements.
The Scottish Government provided hundreds of millions of pounds of financial guarantees to Mr Gupta’s GFG Aliance at Lochaber and is exposed for clean-up costs at its Lanarkshire steel mills.
Mr Rennie said: “The financial arrangements between the SNP Government and the GFG alliance are mired in secrecy. I have repeatedly asked for details of the steps ministers have taken to protect our hard earned taxes but I have been blocked at every corner.
“We were promised 2,000 jobs at Lochaber in return for hundreds of millions of pounds of financial guarantees, but those jobs have not materialised.
“The SNP Government’s cack-handed approach to the Lanarkshire steel mills means that we could be exposed to millions of pounds for the environmental clean-up.
“The industrial intervention strategy of this government is not a good one, which is why we need to be told more.
“The UK Government have taken action and been open about it so why can’t the Scottish Government do likewise?”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to openness and transparency. Our intervention to support the Lochaber aluminium smelter and to secure the continued operation of the Dalzell and Clydebridge steel mills has preserved strategic industrial capacity and supported the livelihoods of hundreds of people since 2016.
“The Scottish Government receives a commercial fee in respect of the Lochaber Guarantee and Guarantee fee payments are up-to-date. There has been no call on the Guarantee and the Scottish Government holds a comprehensive suite of securities over the assets at Lochaber that have been valued at more than the outstanding amount guaranteed.
“GFG has created 40 new jobs in Lochaber since 2016 – increasing direct employment in the complex to 200 jobs. The business remains committed to investment in the long term future of the site. The Liberty steel sites continue to trade and directly support 140 households. Both businesses support a valuable supply chain with hundreds of associated jobs.”