The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business
Scotland’s finance minister accepted £600 rugby ticket from industrial tycoon Gupta
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.”