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Government must ‘finally come clean’ on ferry shambles, demand Tories

The Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

Controversy over “missing” documents detailing the decision to award contracts for the Ferguson Marine ferries is to be the focus of a debate in Holyrood.

The Scottish Conservatives are to call on the Scottish Government to “finally come clean” as they lead a discussion on Wednesday on the lack of evidence in the decision-making process.

The party’s transport spokesman, Graham Simpson, will challenge Government ministers to “verbally” recall the reasoning behind the award – claiming it is “inconceivable” there would be no memory of it.

The cost of building the two ferries at the Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, is sitting at at least £250 million – two-and-a-half times the original £97 million budget.

Glen Sannox
The unfinished Glen Sannox ferry in the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde (Jane Barlow/PA)

The estimated delivery of the two vessels, Glen Sannox and Hull 802, has been pushed back by five years, with completion expected between March and May 2023 and between October and December 2023 respectively.

In the time since the contract was awarded to the yard, it has been saved from administration by the Scottish Government.

In the meantime, Scotland’s ferry network has faced major problems with disruptions and unreliability caused by an aging fleet.

CalMac’s managing director revealed last month that nearly a third of vessels used across the network are now beyond their normal expected lifeline, leading to increased spending on maintenance.

The Tories will on Wednesday call on the Government to reveal a plan for running and procuring Scotland’s ferries in the future, amid fears the issues with services could see island populations begin to fall.

Mr Simpson said: “The SNP’s continued cover-up over their catastrophic contract award is only dragging out and deepening this scandal.

Hull 802
Hull 802 is not expected to be completed until the end of next year (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The Government’s claims over the missing document – explaining why they overruled Cmal’s (Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited) advice and gave the contract to Ferguson – don’t bear the slightest scrutiny. Whether no written record was ever kept or it has been destroyed, it appears they may well have broken the law.

“But in a sense the paperwork is a red herring. Ministers can simply tell us their reasoning. After all, it’s inconceivable that Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Keith Brown and co can’t recall why they gave the contract to Ferguson – unless they’ve all developed selective amnesia.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “A thorough search has been conducted and all relevant information that we hold has been shared with Audit Scotland.

“As the First Minister has set out to Parliament, there is extensive documentation available, including more than 200 documents proactively published online which record the decision-making process and the mitigations proposed to safeguard public money.

“As the Auditor General has set out, it is not clear whether the document being discussed was ever created or whether, in reality, an important document was never prepared and that is why it cannot now be located.”