Confusion over Lanarkshire steel - Government now say Tata have no liability

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie has called on the Scottish Government to urgently clarify its position on its exposure to liability for the clean-up of the Dalzell steelworks in the event of the business and the wider GFG group collapsing.

On 15th December, Scottish Government admitted that it may have broken state aid rules during a deal to take on the Dalzell steelworks in Lanarkshire from Tata Steel and transfer it to new ownership with Liberty House but Business Minister Ivan McKee repeatedly refused to set out the possible consequences for jobs and taxpayers.   

In the statement Mr McKee claimed that the former owners of the site, Tata, had been informed of their potential liability for clean-up operations at the site. However in response to a subsequent parliamentary question from Willie Rennie he said “The Scottish Government does not assert that Tata Steel has liabilities relating to the environmental remediation costs for the site of the Dalzell steelworks.” 

Mr Rennie has now submitted further parliamentary questions seeking clarity over why the Scottish Government needed to buy the steelworks before selling it on to Liberty Steel and if there were any benefits for TATA and Liberty Steel in the Scottish Government owning it for a period of time.    

Responding to the confusion, Willie Rennie said:  

“Back in 2016 the SNP’s amateur handling of the negotiations with TATA and Liberty Steel landed the Government with a liability that was apparently contrary to state aid rules. It took them four years to discover and admit that blunder.   

“Then the Scottish Government told TATA they may have a liability for the clean-up of the site but now apparently the minister says that they don’t. If TATA are not responsible for clean-up operations does that mean the costs could fall on Scottish taxpayers? This confusion must be cleared up urgently.

“If the SNP Government were more open about the bungled deal that may clear up the confusion but in response to a series of questions from me, they have blocked any details from public scrutiny. The SNP refuse to be open about the purpose of the back-to-back sale or any of the details of the discussions.  

“When millions of pounds and the credibility of the Scottish Government’s industrial policy are at stake we deserve to be told more.”   

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