The Scottish Labour leader has repeated his belief that McGill should have been saved – amid suggestions of directors taking money from the firm in its dying days.
Richard Leonard said Scottish Enterprise (SE) should have pressed ahead with a proposed £2 million rescue loan that was later scrapped, forcing the company to shed 374 jobs and enter administration.
However, emails published by the organisation suggest the firm may have paid out to shareholders while it sought financial help.
Mr Leonard told the Tele: “McGill had an order book of £40 million. It was owed money for contracts it had completed but it had an overdraft to overcome a cash shortfall, which was foreclosed.
“In these circumstances it would have been a much more sensible route for the government to speak to Scottish Enterprise and ask it to offer some sort of loan.
“The bottom line is that 300-plus people have lost their jobs and are owed money.
“The government could have ensured that there was a responsible payback agreement to make sure Scottish Enterprise didn’t lose its money.”
Mr Leonard’s comments came after it emerged dividend payments may have been made to McGill directors while the company was asking for help from the government, according to documents published by SE.
An email sent to McGill by the business quango in December said it would be “very difficult” to provide a loan “whilst shareholders continue to take dividends from the company”.
And in January, a senior McGill manager told SE that “dividend payments to directors (would) cease with immediate effect” as part of a turnaround plan it was putting forward.
About £1.3m of dividends were paid to shareholders of McGill between 2012 and 2017.
Despite this, Mr Leonard said there was an “abdication of responsibility” on the part of the government, given the wider impact of McGill’s collapse.
He said: “The Scottish Government failed in its remit – there could have been a much more proactive approach by the business minister Jamie Hepburn. Instead, there was an abdication of responsibility in the case of McGill.”
A spokesman for Mr Hepburn said giving millions of pounds of public money to private firms without checks would have been “ridiculous and irresponsible”.
KPMG, administrator for McGill, declined to comment.
A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: “We have no confirmation that dividends continued to be paid during the course of our discussions, but the turnaround plan submitted by the directors suggested they would cease as part of that plan.”
Meanwhile, Mr Leonard praised the approach taken by Michelin in gradually winding up its Dundee business.
He said there was an “opportunity to plan an alternative future” for the Baldovie plant’s 800 workers.
He added: “It is facing up to the responsibility it has for closing down the plant. The decision to close was a shock – but there is a spirit of determination that exists that I think is giving people not false optimism, but some hope for the future.”