Dalzell and Clydebridge Steel Plants (Update on Negotiations)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 March 2016.

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Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The key phrase there is “other than”, because I am afraid that the import of the state aid rules is to restrict to a certain sum the maximum total aid that can be granted over a period of two or three years. Margaret Mitchell and I have discussed the issue and she has pursued it persistently, as is perfectly reasonable. However, the state aid rules say that we cannot provide aid in excess of a figure, and the consequence of doing so might be that we would be in breach of state aid. If we are in breach of state aid, we risk infraction proceeding. If we risk infraction proceeding, instead of the possibility of the deal being done and going through, we would end up in a difficult situation with the European Commission, which would help nobody.

I think that it is reasonable to say—the points were made in the task force, so they are not confidential—that our efforts on business rates have been appreciated by all parties, and we have already demonstrated that we have exhausted or nearly exhausted the maximum relief that we can provide. It is perhaps not the quantum of the relief that has been appreciated by the parties that are involved but the Scottish Government’s willingness to get our sleeves rolled up and provide every single piece of help that we can. That is what businesses appreciate. It is not necessarily the precise amount of money, which, as I said, has a threshold fixed by Brussels.