Following The Highland Times’ exclusive on Wendy Clark of Port Services, Wendy has Petitioned Holyrood and Westminster to “Improve openness and transparency in State Aid (aka Subsidy) applications and awards”.
Wendy has asked Government to treat Grant Applications in the same way as they treat Planning Applications.
This means, if you are a competitor, you can object to a grant being awarded if it is going to damage your business.
The petition calls on Government to regulate awarding bodies of Subsidy statutorily, requiring that they publish, ex ante, applications for Subsidy in order to improve openness and transparency in such a manner that competitors are altered to potential interference in their markets.
“Obviously Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) is my main target,” Wendy Clark said today.
“I am humbled to have been encouraged by Fergus Ewing MSP, and guided by Subsidy Control in BEIS, CMA Scotland, and Sir Ramsden at the Bank of England.”
“The incident that sparked my commitment to this Petition was the matter of LCMS’s (formerly Port Services Invergordon’s) dispute with HIE.
“HIE argued in Court that it had the right to award State Aid to Global Energy Group in Nigg because there was no competition from Port Services.
“Despite being warned about the inevitable Displacement from Port Services in Invergordon to Global Energy in Nigg, HIE ignored my warnings.
“This award of State Aid at Nigg became the subject of a Court of Session Hearing and continues to be investigated by DGCOMP in Europe.
“During these Actions, HIE’s lawyers demanded that I prove that I was a competitor.
“I delivered 78,000 documents to HIE’s office in Inverness to evidence and to prove that Port Services was (a) the highest bidder for Nigg in 2010 and (b) a competitor of Global Energy in the North Sea and beyond.
“HIE has refused to look at one page of the 78,000 pages because it knows it was wrong to claim Port Services was not a competitor of Global Energy.
“I warned HIE that it (HIE) would destroy my business if it backed GE at Nigg.
“HIE blanked me saying I wasn’t a competitor.
“78,000 pages of evidence says I was!
“This ludicrous situation, especially HIE having 78,000 pages of evidence but refusing to look at them, led me to ask, ‘does the State not have a Duty to carefully assess evidence of competition?’”
Wendy’s petition claims that the State does have such a Duty and the most effective way to discharge this Duty is to publically disclose applications for subsidy before awards of subsidy are made.
She has proposed that a system akin to Planning is used to regulate Subsidy.
This means that where an enterprise is seeking Subsidy it should apply publicly for it in order to allow interested parties to object; specifically, competitors and or customers who can evidence that the market will be distorted.
“I concede that an Applicant does have some rights to confidentiality in the early stages of the process.
“I have therefore moderated my Petition to Westminster that asks that the Application being publicised only after the awarding body has signalled its in-principle intention to award subject to there being no valid objections arising from the publication process.”
Wendy will be posting the formal Petition soon for signatures.
The more people who support her Petition, the better.
The Highland Times has signed her petition with the aim of us introducing transparency and accountability into this secretive system.