John McGlynn said he was “deeply concerned” by what he called “thinly-veiled suggestions of impropriety” in the deal relating to the scrapped Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl).
Ms Lamont challenged Alex Salmond at First Minister’s questions on Thursday to explain how land in Paisley – bought for the rail link for £840,000 – was sold to the businessman for just £50,000 after the project was shelved.
Ms Lamont suggested that there had been “gross incompetence” over the use of taxpayers’ cash in the deal with Mr McGlynn, founder of the Airlink Group.
She referred to a reported deal by Mr McGlynn, a former Tory supporter, who she said went on a “political journey” to support independence.
“Since then, he’s been appointed to the Scottish Government national economic forum. And since then, he has bought back land from the Scottish Government for just £50,000 and made a profit of £790,000,” she said.
Ms Lamont went on to ask: “Is there some connection here, or has Mr McGlynn just benefited from the First Minister’s gross incompetence with public funds?”
Mr Salmond said Ms Lamont was attempting to “smear a perfectly respectable businessman” because of his political stance.
He said: “Neither the valuation for land or purchases or sale are made by Scottish Government ministers, as Johann Lamont perfectly well knows.
“Don’t make attacks on people in Scotland with no reason whatsoever for making them and come to this chamber and attack people who can’t answer back in the chamber. It’s ridiculous.”
Ms Lamont insisted that she was focusing on the SNP government, not the businessman, when she challenged Mr Salmond over the £790,000 loss to the public purse.
She asked: “How did we get to a situation where a piece of land was bought with taxpayers’ money with the guts of a million pounds and sold back to the same person a few years later for just a fraction of that?
“There are people watching this at home who are struggling to pay the bills or put food on the table. They have to account for every penny they spend.
“Can the First Minister explain to them either why it’s got nothing to do with him or how he managed to buy a piece of land with their money for £840,000 and sold it for just £50,000?”
Mr McGlynn said the comments made in parliament were “regrettable in the extreme”. He added: “I am deeply concerned by thinly-veiled
suggestions of impropriety in my business transactions relating to the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.
“I find it utterly preposterous that anyone should link my personal expressions of sympathy for fiscal autonomy with my commercial activities.
“For the record, I have never expressed support for Yes Scotland or the Yes campaign
despite statements made in the debating chamber. After the decision not to proceed with the Garl project was taken,
several years later the land, which I had sold, was put up for sale at a public auction with a
reserve of £50,000.
“There was no interest. No prospective buyers. And it was not sold. My agents then made an offer of £50,000 which has since been accepted and I am now considering future uses for the site. Everything was above board, fully transparent, in the public domain and open to scrutiny. Accordingly, I find the comments made in the debating chamber regrettable in the
“Johann Lamont has not approached me about the matter. I would be delighted to meet with her to discuss the facts in full after which I would hope that she might find herself in a position to make an apology to me.”