SNP want to be world players but they have embarrassed us time and time again - Alex Cole-Hamilton

If you received an email from a former government minister hiding out in Lagos, who has $15 million stashed in a mattress and is looking for a UK bank account to move it to, you might think something seems a bit fishy and quickly hit delete.

By Alex Cole-Hamilton
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 4:55 am
Details of the SNP's bid to keep the Lochaber smelting plant in business have come to light with questions raised over the risk to the public purse. PIC: Andrew Tyron/
Details of the SNP's bid to keep the Lochaber smelting plant in business have come to light with questions raised over the risk to the public purse. PIC: Andrew Tyron/

The sender might be better off trying the Scottish Government because on past form, they would be naive enough to read on.

We learned over the weekend that Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers have promised up to £586 million in a 25-year guarantee to buy energy from a pair of hydro plants.

In exchange, business tycoon Sanjeev Gupta promised 2,000 jobs would be secured at Scotland’s last remaining aluminium smelter at Lochaber, turning it into a centre for alloy wheel production.

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Sadly, the government have now admitted that this half-a-​billion-pound stake has so far only yielded something like 50 extra jobs. To put that in context, you could make every worker a millionaire ten times over for the amount that has been promised to Mr Gupta.

Governments sometimes have to take a punt, especially in an effort to secure jobs and investment in the communities they serve but the SNP keep taking risks with your money and they keep getting caught out.

It seems like they are good at press releases and bad at due diligence.

In 2019, the Scottish Government took shipbuilders Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow into public ownership to stave off the likely collapse of the firm and protect the jobs it provided.

Shortly afterwards, grave errors in the construction of two (still incomplete) Cal Mac ferries were uncovered. As a result, it was excluded from competing for contracts to construct two new ferries for Islay and Jura. That work will now be undertaken overseas. So bad was the Government’s handling of the shipyard, the SNP were accused of ‘throwing taxpayers money around like confetti’ when it emerged a trouble-shooter was brought in to turn the beleaguered yard around with a government backed salary of nearly £800k a year. The yard is still struggling.

Incompetence in the SNP’s industrial strategy is nothing new. In 2016, they signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ which was set to unlock £10bn of public investment in transport and housing with two Chinese companies - SinoFortone and China Railway No.3 Engineering Group (CR3)

Later, we learned the parent group of CR3 had been blacklisted in Norway over concerns of ‘gross-corruption’ and that multiple promised investment deals by SinoFortone evaporated, although a pub in Buckinghamshire was bought up.

What’s clear is that SNP ministers are desperate to look like serious players on the world stage and they have embarrassed our country time and again while exposing us to massive financial risk. It is incumbent on any government to fight for the preservation of jobs but Nicola Sturgeon’s ministers have displayed such a cack-handed inability to read the small print about the deals they get embroiled in it would be enough to make disgraced former RBS chief, Fred "The Shred" Goodwin blush.

These people want you to believe they could establish an independent country and that we would prosper under it. Those fake Nigerian ministers will be rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity that would present.

- Alex Cole-Hamilton is a Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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