Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie has today written to the Finance Secretary to ask what will happen to Scottish Government financial guarantees in the event that the Lochaber aluminium smelter ceases to be a going concern or is sold by financier Sanjeev Gupta and urge them to make a statement to parliament.
His letter follows the publication of Alvance British Aluminium’s unaudited accounts, in which Mr Gupta outlines “material uncertainties that cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
The accounts reveal that the firm lost £4m last year.
Mr Gupta acquired the Lochaber plant and its accompanying hydropower station in 2016.
However, documents filed at Companies House reveal that while the Scottish Government provided guarantees of up to half a billion for the deal, Mr Gupta put just £5 towards it.
The metal magnate’s business empire is currently under criminal investigation for suspected fraud and money laundering.
Mr Rennie said:
“These late and unaudited accounts are another worrying sign about the underlying health of the Lochaber smelter.
“Despite flashy promises of 2,000 jobs and a new billet plant nothing has materialised even though the SNP Government has provided hundreds of millions of pounds of financial guarantees.
“Given Mr Gupta’s record it is looking more and more like the government were duped.
“There is now a significant risk that the firm is either sold or collapses as a result of the losses at Lochaber and the wider group’s financial difficulties.
“The Scottish Government will need to set out what will happen to the financial guarantees that it has provided, what will happen to the workers at the plant and whether it will be taking an active role in securing new ownership and the future of the site.
“The SNP Government must finally be open about the financial agreements with Sanjeev Gupta and report to parliament with urgency.”