The Circuit of Wales project has hit fresh controversy after it emerged that its developers are involved in discussions with the Scottish Government about the development of a possible Circuit of Scotland.Circuit of Wales solicitor Jonathan Coad told Wales Online the Welsh Government was aware that discussions were taking place with the Scottish Government. But the Welsh Government said such contact was only confirmed by Circuit of Wales officials on Thursday.
The project involves building a £425m motorcycle racetrack with ancillary features on moorland above Ebbw Vale. Its supporters say it could create up to 6,000 jobs but its progress has been delayed by difficulties in raising enough private finance to take it forward.
Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Ken Skates is currently considering a proposal under which the Welsh Government would underwrite the project with a financial guarantee of £210m. Consultants are undertaking rigorous due diligence on the business plan, which the Welsh Government says is based on the assumption that the Circuit of Wales would be a unique facility.
But the South Wales Argus has reported that it has seen an email in which a representative of the Scottish Government is seen corresponding with members of the Circuit of Wales team, asking about the progress of the Welsh project and details of public support the scheme would require.
A Circuit of Wales spokesman confirmed to the Argus that the team had entered into “discussions with other devolved administrations over similar facilities” but said details of these talks were confidential. “We are focused on finalising the approvals with Welsh Government to allow the project to advance in Wales,” the spokesman told the Argus. “We are confident that the robust due diligence and external reports undertaken will demonstrate that we have met all the measures set out by the Cabinet Secretary last year and that we will be able to move, with enthusiasm, to start construction this year.”
Wales Online wrote to Mr Coad to ask whether the project was being looked at in addition to the Circuit of Wales rather than as a substitute for it. They also asked whether the Welsh Government had no knowledge of the Circuit of Scotland before being told about it by the Argus. And also asked whether the proposal for a Circuit of Scotland rendered the business plan submitted to the Welsh Government in connection with the Circuit of Wales worthless, together with the due diligence being undertaken in relation to it.
Mr Coad responded: “The Welsh Government was already aware of the Circuit of Scotland project. My clients are focused on finalising the negotiation with Welsh Government to allow the project to advance in Wales. They are confident that the due diligence and external reports undertaken will demonstrate that they have met all the measures set out by the Cabinet Secretary and will move to approval and start construction this year. Any discussions with other devolved administrations over other projects remain confidential. The suggestion that the possibility of the circuit being built elsewhere if not in Wales renders the business plan worthless is absurd.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Welsh Government was not aware of discussions with the Scottish Government for a Circuit of Scotland until this week. It was confirmed by officials of the Heads of the Valleys Development Company in a meeting on Thursday following reports in the media. The Circuit of Wales has been developed as a unique facility and the due diligence is proceeding on that basis.”