THE co-founder of a leading Scottish publishing company which received more than £200,000 of public money before it went bust and left writers out of pocket has accused his former business partner of recklessness, betrayal and “madness”.

In emails to Creative Scotland, which awarded Freight Books the taxpayer funding, Davinder Samrai wrote that ex-colleague Adrian Searle had been responsible for a “massive over reliance on grants and general lunacy”.

Samrai also asked the arts quango if there had been any “sightings” of Searle – who left the firm last year – and claimed he destroyed the business out of “hubris”.

Freight Books was named Scottish publisher of the year in 2015 and had renowned writers such as Irvine Welsh and Janice Galloway on its roster.

Trouble hit Freight Books – a trading name of Freight Design (Scotland) Ltd – last April after Searle quit as a director. He and Samrai were the only shareholders of the parent firm.

However, while Samrai operated the design side business, he said he had no operational or decision making involvement in the Freight Books side of the business, which was founded and run by Searle until his departure.

In September, Glasgow printing company Bell & Bain launched legal proceedings over unpaid work, after which an interim liquidator was appointed for Freight Books. The Sunday Herald reported that authors who lost thousands of pounds were unlikely to get paid.

Emails released under Freedom of Information legislation by Creative Scotland show the extent of the bitterness felt by Samrai towards his erstwhile colleague.

In an email in May, weeks after Searle’s departure, Samrai listed Freight Book's liabilities and hit out at his former colleague’s “madness”.

He wrote: “I am personally mortified that someone I had the unwavering trust in for the last 16 years could have betrayed us all to the extent he has. It is truly galling. Unfortunately for us, recompense from him is some distance away.”

He added: “I can only apologise again for Adrian's recklessness... we are only interested in doing what we can to make it right and we'd welcome any/all support Creative Scotland can give (financial, accountancy and legal).”

In June, an increasingly frantic Samrai wrote: “Adrian's nonsense has caused me no end of reputational damage ... I'm taking all the flak that should be heading in Adrian's direction.”

He added: “I don't suppose you've had any sightings of him?”

On June 29, Samrai sent another email to the quango in relation to a previous funding proposal: “Adrian deleted his entire email account – whilst we've got all the data back ... we have to manually sift through it. A lot of his files were on his laptop (which he is yet to return) ... so it is needle in a haystack.”

By September, at which point Freight Books was weeks away from being put under the control of a liquidator, Samrai’s mood darkened: “The entire matter is physically and mentally crushing. He's destroyed something good for nothing more than his own hubris.”

Referring again to Searle, he also hit out at a "massive over reliance on grants and general lunacy”.

It has since emerged that Searle started a new company, Dalbeath Trading, which published its first work in December.

At the time, author Shawn Stein said: “Searle opening a new publisher prior to the completion of all legal proceedings related to the demise of Freight Books is outrageous.”

Searle told this newspaper: “My former business partner has consistently misrepresented the circumstances of my departure from Freight. These comments come as no surprise.

“In November 2016, I offered to buy the Freight Books business. After five months no agreement could be reached. The lack of a shareholder agreement, a failing that I share joint responsibility for, meant there was no means of obtaining a resolution.

“In late April 2017, Davinder announced that all publishing was to cease, something I was unable to prevent, but fundamentally disagreed with and did not want to be party to. I took the decision to resign as an employee and director. It was the very last thing I wanted to do.

“When I left, the Freight Books business was in exactly the same financial position that it had been at the same point the previous year. All subsequent decisions regarding the business were my former business partner’s alone.”

Samrai responded, describing Searle’s statement as untrue. “My former business partner continues to misrepresent his exit from Freight," he said. "This is not a surprise – he continues to take zero responsibility for his conduct within the Freight Books business.

“Adrian made no meaningful attempt to purchase the Freight Books business and to date has provided no evidence to support his claim. Certainly neither our legal or financial advisers have any knowledge of his attempts to purchase Freight Books."

He added: “With regards 'late April 2017' – I prevented the publication of one specific title, because he was sanctioning publication and production in the full knowledge he did not have funds to meet the cost, which was compounded by the fact, at the time, he hadn't disclosed significant publishing debts and future publishing liabilities to the business. My responsibilities as a director meant I had to act.”

He also described Searle’s claim that “all publishing was to cease” as “woefully inaccurate” and said the comment about Freight Books’ financial position is “false”.

One author who was published by Freight, and asked not to be named, said: "What happened at Freight was a disgrace. It's a stain on Scottish culture that so many writers can be treated so dreadfully. While I hold Searle in most contempt, when it comes to both him and Samrai I can only fall back on quoting Shakespeare and say, 'a plague on both your houses'."