Chip shop magnate says SNP MP backed out of property deal

Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A CHIP shop magnate has complained to the First ­Minister, claiming he has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after a property deal with a city MP collapsed.

Paul Basford said he carried out work to a vacant shop he owns in Gorgie Road to meet the demands of Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry, who wanted to turn it into a constituency office.

He said that after completing “costly” and extensive work to remove fridges and transform the site, as well as paying legal fees, Ms Cherry’s staff informed him that they would be pulling out of a deal, which he claims had been verbally agreed.

However, Ms Cherry, who is also a QC and the SNP’s spokeswoman at Westminster on justice and home affairs, said the taxpayer would have faced “extensive costs”.

In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Basford, who is based in Brechin, Angus, said Ms Cherry put down a £2000 taxpayer-funded deposit on a lease for the property.

He said: “I had the word of Joanna Cherry MP that the deal was agreed and I went ahead and removed the equipment and cut off my alternative options with the property.

“This involved two removal lorries, a refrigeration engineer and three days of labour to ­disconnect the equipment, remove the built-in refrigeration and to replace the suspended ceiling in the room where the fridge had been.

“I also feel strongly that the taxpayer should not be picking up the costs of this debacle and that the surveyors’ fees, solicitors’ costs and deposit paid should all be paid by Joanna Cherry herself.”

Mr Basford, who opened almost a dozen fish and chip shops across Yorkshire, said he had been left without any legal recourse over the dispute.

An SNP spokeswoman said Ms Cherry had been concerned about the condition of the property and had not been ­prepared to make a formal agreement that would have committed public money to it.

She said: “Negotiations about the possibility of leasing Mr Basford’s property as a constituency office for Joanna Cherry MP were entered into in good faith. However, a building report found that extensive financial investment would be required to bring the property up to a standard safe for staff and members of the public to use on a daily basis.

“Further survey work was required due to the presence of wet rot and Joanna Cherry was not willing to commit taxpayers to the open-ended liability involved in upgrading the property.”