Brother-in-law of the former First Minister, Jack McConnell, McLuckie is the millionaire owner of property company Camvo 37.
In 2007, retired detective sergeant, Alistair Watson - the officer behind the 'cash for honours' enquiry that dogged Tony Blair - sparked an investigation into McLuckie's dealings with the Scottish Executive by writing to the Metropolitan Police. Apparently, five houses and a plot of prime building land had been sold to Camvo 37 by the Executive for just £2 in 2004 on the site of the former Ladysbridge Hospital, near Banff, Aberdeenshire, is now worth upwards of £1million. Mr. Watson is quoted as saying:
- There is something which appears not quite above board about this deal. It raises a number of serious questions about the relationships between all those involved and the Labour Party. What I want to know is why was this sale of what had been a public asset not put out to tender? Like any other public asset it should have been put up for sale in public. Also why is it that property worth supposedly only £2 is now worth one million just three years after-wards? And the NHS Grampian official responsible for the sale to Mr McLuckie's company was at one time a prospective Labour Party MSP. He is now a Labour councillor. It would appear to the average man in the street that spending £2 and making a million from it is quite a bit of luck no matter how expert the property speculator behind it. It smells and not just a little.
It was also reported that 'six months before negotiations over the Ladysbridge deal opened, another company he owned, Choices Community Care, donated more than £2,000 to Mr McConnell's election funds.'
Eleventh Hour Intervention
Apparently, 'The Inland Revenue tried to stall the sale after discovering Camvo 37 was benefiting from public cash being used to develop the site. But it was pushed through by NHS Grampian property transaction manager Ramsay Milne, who was on a list of prospective MSP candidates selected by Labour in 1998. He is also a Labour councillor in Aberdeen.' This refers to the fact that 'Inland Revenue district valuer (DV) Jim Campbell tried to halt the deal in 2004 when he discovered Camvo 37, the firm run by the First Minister's brother-in- law Robert McLuckie, was to receive £120,000 from an Executive quango, Communities Scotland, to help build new homes on the land. Another £230,000 of NHS and council cash was spent renovating the existing houses even though the DV said the company should pay.' Paperwok relating to the deal had explicitly stated that Camvo 37 should cover all costs associated with the development rather than relying on grants.
Further, 'Camvo agreed to use its new acquisitions solely to care for adults with learning difficulties for the subsequent 20 years.' It built four homes on the site, and rented them out to 'Choices, a Livingston-based firm which provides care facilities for people with learning disabilities. [...] Mr McLuckie was on the board of Choices until February this year when he sold his stake as part of a £10 million management buyout. Records for the 2004/05 financial year show that Camvo 37 had debts of £1.4 million. It made a loss of £2,044 from a turnover of £141,239,' making the grant Camvo gained from Communities Scotland three-quarters of its annual turnover.
The strictest penalty the company faced was £255,000 for paying less than the market value of the site and failing to keep its promise. At one point, Jack McConnell was questioned about his brother-in-law's financial dealings but refused to be drawn in to the argument. As it turned out, in June 2007, the deal was given the all-clear by Health Minister Andy Kerr.
Earlier, in 2002, Choices Community Care, which largely provides community care services in Motherwell and Wishaw, secured £337,000 worth of business in Mr McConnell's constituency, which was brought to the public's attention by SNP council leader Richard Lyle.
- By Paul Gilbride, 'McConnell's relative faces probe into £2 property deal', The Express, 26 March 2007, p.15.
- Mark Howarth, 'Police probe into £2 land deal by McConnell in-law', Mail on Sunday, 25 March 2007, p.11.
- Maggie Barry, 'New Quiz over £1m Hospital Land Deal: Minister Under Fire After Holyrood Answer', The Mirror, 5 March 2007, p.14.
- Mark Howarth, 'Probe call over £1m land Jack's brother-in-law was given for £2: Demand for Auditor General to investigate sale to McConnell's millionaire relative', Mail on Sunday, 4 March 2007, p.21.
- Mark Howarth, 'Revealed, the cash handout to Jack's millionaire in-law: Property company was given £100,000', Mail on Sunday, 4 June 2006, p.15.
- 'McConnell grilled after in-law buys £1m land for £2', The Express, 29 May 2006, p.6.
- Tim Pauling, 'Ladysbridge sale process gets all-clear', Aberdeen Press and Journal, 13 June 2006, p.3.
- Patricia Kane, 'The First Minister's brother-in-law, the infamous Red Rose dinner and the contracts worth £337,000 in McConnell's own constituency', Daily Mail, 22 November 2002, p.7.