THE Holyrood committee which blamed civil servants for banning former deputy first minister Nicol Stephen from championing Aberdeen’s case to host a £1billion energy institute was itself accused last night of “missing the point”.
Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said it had missed the opportunity to deal with the real cause of the loss of the headquarters of the institute with its huge potential to generate business and jobs to the city.
He said this was why the Scottish Executive at the time was allowed to intervene at all.
Mr Doran, who was involved with Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen City Council and others drawing up Aberdeen’s bid, said civil servants forced all the universities into a consortium in which they were obliged to fight each other to lead a Scottish bid, which ended up in a decision that this should be done by Strathclyde.
He said Mr Stephen, MSP for Aberdeen South, and SNP Enterprise Minister Jim Mather were both warned it was all going wrong and failed to act.
Mr Doran said: “We spent nine months preparing the case for Aberdeen against other Scottish universities while Newcastle, Manchester and Loughborough – the eventual victor – were preparing their presentations to the Energy Institute Board.
“By forcing Aberdeen to be part of a Scottish process we lost the best opportunity we had. The process was bureaucratic and slanted against Aberdeen and the chance to be not just the UK energy centre but a world energy centre was thrown away.”
Mr Doran said he believed Aberdeen University might have struck up a partnership with another engineering university elsewhere in the UK and had a much better chance of winning the prize, but was threatened with the loss of funding if it did.
The report claimed civil servants effectively gagged Mr Stephen after he made it clear Aberdeen was the institute’s best location. He was told a joint bid involving several Scottish institutions would be “preferable” to Aberdeen going-it-alone.
When they took over, SNP ministers decided not to interfere with a process they inherited after winning the May 2007 election.
Aberdeen South Labour MP Anne Begg said Aberdeen was effectively placed in a straightjacket resulting in a Scottish bid that was “fundamentally flawed”.