Scottish ministers must stop hiding and finally start answering questions on GFG Alliance deals

The Scottish Government has a less than stellar record when it comes to industrial interventions. One need only look at the gaping hole where two ferries should be to see that.

And in the case of the Government’s relationship with Sanjeev Gupta and GFG Alliance, much is mired in what critics label “murky deals”.

On Thursday, the auditors at the Lochaber smelter, backed by a £586 million Government guarantee, resigned.

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Scottish Government under pressure to explain ‘murky deal’ after Lochaber smelte...

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It followed the same auditors resigning from Dalzell steelworks, backed by a £7m Scottish Enterprise loan, earlier this month.

Why? Because they had been blocked from issuing a disclaimer of opinion stating they had not seen enough information to complete their work as auditors.

If I was a Government minister with hundreds of millions tied up with these companies, that would worry me.

But it doesn’t seem to worry business minister Ivan McKee, who instead claimed he would do the same deals with Mr Gupta today as they did six years ago, despite an ongoing Serious Fraud Investigation and a Financial Reporting Council probe into his now ex-auditors.

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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.

In any case, asking the Government and Mr McKee about the details of these deals is a complete waste of time.

I asked four questions of the Government following the auditor’s resignation.

When the Government found out? What assurances have been received the accounts the Government has seen are accurate? Whether the amount of information received is enough for the Government to be happy? What is the Government’s view on the risk of GFG Alliance going bust?

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In response, not one question was answered. Not one question was even referenced.

Instead, the same three lines – the appointment of auditors is a matter for GFG Alliance, that jobs were saved and the smelter is performing well, and there has been no call on the guarantee – were trotted out.

It is bordering on treating questions in the public interest with contempt.

In particular, how can the Government be sure the smelter is performing well when auditors cannot complete their audit? It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

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Whenever asked for specifics, there is simply a refusal to engage and a repetition of the same oldequivocations.

It begs the question, why, if the news is only good, is Mr McKee so keen on keeping the facts from us?

All episodes of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, are out now.

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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