By a Newsnet reporter
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has rebuked a BBC interviewer who claimed that a loan guarantee given to the owners of the Grangemouth plant would not have been possible without a London based Government.
BBC Radio 4, World at One presenter Edward Stourton made the claim in an interview with Mr Salmond shortly after Ineos announced a U-turn on their earlier decision to close part of the plant.
Speaking following the announcement that Ineos had reversed their decision to close down the Grangemouth petrochemical plant, the BBC presenter pressed Mr Salmond to admit that the deal was possible only due to the critical role played by Westminster.
Referring to a loan guarantee issued by the UK Government, Mr Stourton said: “The plain fact this could not have happened without the London Government could it?”
The UK Government issued a loan guarantee to the owners of the Grangemouth facility which meant that Ineos could borrow £300m in order to invest in a new ethane processing facility at Grangemouth.
However Mr Salmond hit back at the BBC presenter’s claim and accused him of mixing politics with economics.
The First Minister pointed out that an independent Scotland could more than afford to issue such loan guarantees. Mr Salmond also explained that the £9m in cash the Scottish Government were giving Ineos in the form of a grant cost far more but that as things stood similar loan guarantee powers were being withheld from the Scottish Parliament.
He said: “What’s a loan guarantee worth? It’s worth about one million in every hundred million you guarantee.”
Mr Salmond added: “If we had the powers to give loan guarantees in Scotland just now we’d add that to our armoury of industrial policy because it’s a lot cheaper than the powers we currently have when actually giving loans or giving grants.”
However despite the clarification, the BBC presenter continued to suggest Scotland could not survive without Westminster. Mr Stourton added: “A lot of people will look at this and say it’s an illustration of the fact that Scotland needs the heff that comes with being part of a bigger economic power.”
The claim brought a contemptuous rebuke from an exasperated First Minister who described it as “ridiculous” and added that the BBC appeared to be “fixated” with the idea that only the UK Government is able to provide such loan guarantees.
Mr Salmond warned the BBC presenter against playing constitutional politics with the Grangemouth crisis and suggested those who persisted faced being left “with egg all over their face”.