Deputy First Minister claims it is 'difficult' to outline total government liability to GFG Alliance

The full amount potentially owed by the taxpayer in relation to deals done with companies run by GFG Alliance head, Sanjeev Gupta, could not be outlined by the deputy first minister.

John Swinney, who is also the interim finance secretary, also said he was unsure if he could confirm or deny the government being contacted by the Serious Fraud Office in relation the GFG Alliance.

GFG Alliance, which owns the Lochaber smelter near Fort William and the Dalzell steelworks in North Lanarkshire is under significant financial strain as it continues to refinance following Greensill’s collapse.

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The Scottish Government has around £280m tied up as part of their ongoing financial guarantee at the Lochaber Smelter, and a further £7m in the form of an unpaid loan at the Dalzell steelworks.

Last week, the auditors of the Lochaber smelter and the steelworks resigned, citing a lack of information on key issues including the ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation into the conglomerate.

They were also blocked from issuing a disclaimer of opinion on the most recent set of accounts, with Mr Gupta choosing to publish unaudited statements for the smelter instead.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, asked whether the government regretted the deals with GFG Alliance which went against the advice of their own advisers.

He said: “Their auditors have resigned, there is an investigation with the Serious Fraud Office, and the promised 2,000 jobs are nowhere to be seen.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Sanjeev Gupta, the head of the Liberty Group, ahead of a ceremony where Tata Steel handed over the keys of two Lanarkshire steel plants to metals firm Liberty House, at Dalzell steelworks in Scotland.

"Its owners have warned that the plant may in fact shut.”

John Swinney said the government had simply wanted to protect jobs.

He said: “The government’s intentions were clear, we were taking the steps that were taken to try and protect employment and there are families today who are employed in the Dalzell steelworks and at the Lochaber smelter who wouldn’t be employed today if the government hadn’t helped in the way that we helped.”

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Asked by Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson, Daniel Johnson, what the total liability is to the taxpayer in connection to the deals with GFG Alliance, Mr Swinney said it was a “difficult factor to calculate”.

He added: “The government has in place arrangements which ensure that all of the payments that are required to the government are up to date, and the asset value of the Lochaber venture is in excess of any liability that could be created in the scenario on that individual site.”

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