The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business

Scotland’s finance minister accepted £600 rugby ticket from industrial tycoon Gupta

- By Tom Rees and Oliver Gill

SCOTLAND’S finance minister accepted a £600 rugby ticket from the troubled industrial tycoon Sanjeev Gupta as he lobbied for more state support, following his taxpayer-backed purchase of an aluminium smelter and hunting estate in her Highland constituen­cy.

Kate Forbes, cabinet secretary for finance, was a guest of Mr Gupta’s Liberty Steel at Murrayfiel­d in 2018, transparen­cy disclosure­s reveal.

Letters subsequent­ly published by the Scottish government show that at the time Mr Gupta was lobbying for more taxpayer support to help “unlock” further investment from his empire. In the months after the match, grants worth more than £1m were paid to the steel giant by Scottish Enterprise, Holyrood’s investment body, in 2018.

Ms Forbes was parliament­ary liaison officer to the finance secretary when she accepted the ticket in February 2018. She was made deputy finance secretary four months later and promoted to the top job last year. She accepted the tickets two years after Mr Gupta bought an aluminium smelter and hunting estate in her constituen­cy of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch. The deal went through after the Scottish government provided a 25-year guarantee. Opposition MSPS urged the SNP to disclose its relationsh­ip with Liberty.

The smelter deal could leave UK taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions if Mr Gupta’s empire, a collection of family-owned businesses he calls GFG Alliance, collapses. Daniel Johnson, Scottish shadow finance secretary, said: “The SNP needs to disclose the full nature and extent of the relationsh­ip that they had with Gupta. It’s not good enough for the SNP to just dismiss the very serious questions regarding the blurred lines between this company and government.”

A SNP spokesman said: “Kate Forbes accepted this invitation as a constituen­cy MSP, before she was appointed as a government minister. Since her ministeria­l appointmen­t, Ms Forbes has been recused from all ministeria­l decision-making relating to any aspect of the GFG Alliance holdings at Lochaber, due to her constituen­cy interests.

“She attended this rugby match at the invitation of the chief executive of Jahama Highland Estates, which is the substantia­l land holding in Ms Forbes’s rural constituen­cy. At the time, this land was of interest to the local community who wanted to pursue a community buyout.”

 ??  ?? Sanjeev Gupta’s industrial empire, which includes Liberty Steel, is under mounting pressure
Sanjeev Gupta’s industrial empire, which includes Liberty Steel, is under mounting pressure

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