The First Minister came under fire yesterday for continuing to trumpet the virtues of a £170 million inward investment project promising 1700 jobs for months after the development was shelved.
The Government was told last December that Korean firm Doosan had dropped its plan for an offshore wind research and development centre in Renfrewshire and turbine construction plant, possibly in Dundee.
However, Alex Salmond, who boasted of that original proposal a year ago in the run-up to the Holyrood election, made no public mention of the fact Doosan had scrapped the plan.
The Government’s Budget document published last September spoke of the proposal, but when the Budget was debated at Holyrood during January and February the First Minister made no attempt to point out this passage was no longer accurate.
Mr Salmond’s chief aide said it had been the company’s decision to make the announcement only to staff, customers and suppliers in spite of the Government urging it to go fully public. He also claimed the development had been published in trade press and was even the subject of a BBC interview with Finance Secretary John Swinney last weekend ahead of his trade mission to Japan and Korea.
Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour leader, said: “In January, the First Minister’s spokesman said Doosan had invested in Scotland ‘in recent months’. The opposite was true. Instead of announcing additional investment in those recent months, the most significant announcement Doosan had made to the Scottish Government was the withdrawal of their proposed £170m investment. Not only did the SNP Government hide that fact, they claimed the reverse. If he will suppress serious issues like this iconic project before the local elections, what is he capable of hiding before the referendum?”
During First Minister’s Questions, Ms Lamont said: “The First Minister announced they were coming. When was he going to tell us they weren’t? I’m beginning now to get how this works – if it’s good news the First Minister announces it, if it is bad news, well it’s not the business of governments to make announcements on behalf of companies.”
However, Mr Salmond responded: “If it’s good news then Johann Lamont won’t welcome it and if it’s bad news the Labour Party will want to revel in it.”
The First Minister stressed Doosan had made clear its decision was based on current uncertainties of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone, not any considerations over Scottish politics or the constitution.
Confirming its decision to a trade magazine this week, the company said: “In light of the European sovereign debt crisis, Doosan Power Systems reluctantly decided in December 2011 to postpone its plans to enter into the offshore wind market and subsequent investment in offshore assembly plants in the UK.”
A Governnent spokesman insisted it was legitimate to con-tinue referring to Doosan as they were still investing in Scotland and employed 1300 staff here
Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: “In their desperation to prove that Scotland isn’t suffering from the uncertainty of the delayed independence referendum the SNP have misrepresented Doosan.”
And Donald Trump, who is due to give evidence at Holyrood next week as part of his crusade against offshore wind, was quick to comment: “I just heard that the Korean company Doosan has abandoned their investment in Scotland due to deteriorating confidence in the offshore wind market. This is one of many as wind power does not work.”
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