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Sturgeon and Swinney should be asked to give evidence in ferries probe – Rennie

The committee is investigating the construction of the ferry (Jane Barlow/PA)
The committee is investigating the construction of the ferry (Jane Barlow/PA)

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister should be asked to give oral evidence to a committee of MSPs investigating the delayed Ferguson Marine ferries, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

The party’s economy spokesman Willie Rennie MSP said that Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and former Infrastructure Secretary, Keith Brown, should join former Transport Secretary Derek Mackay in giving evidence at Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee.

Mr Mackay was transport minister when the contract was approved to build two ferries at the Port Glasgow shipyard and has already been invited to give evidence in person after the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess.

Following the award of the contract in 2015, the construction of the two CalMac ferries was plagued with delays and the shipyard was nationalised.

Ferguson Marine Shipyard
The MV Glen Sannox is one of two vessels which are years overdue (Jane Barlow/PA)

The two vessels: the Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed hull 802; were originally due to be completed in 2018, but have since been delayed until at least 2023 and costs have more than doubled from the original price tag of £97 million.

Mr Rennie said: “It is only right that Derek MacKay should appear before Parliament but he was not the sole member of Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet involved in signing off this multi-million-pound contract.

“The public have heard from transport officials and shipyard representatives that John Swinney, Keith Brown and Nicola Sturgeon herself were all involved in the decision to take over Ferguson Marine and to provide it with extensive financial support. They should join Derek Mackay in giving evidence to Parliament.

“Island communities have been sorely let down by the Government and they have waited too long for answers.

“These communities depend on the success of ferry contracts like this one. The SNP, however, have done next to nothing to show that they understand this.

“It is beyond laughable that the SNP can talk of running an independent country when they can’t even get people from A to B.”

Mr Rennie has written to the convener of the Public Audit Committee, Richard Leonard MSP, asking him to invite Ms Sturgeon, Mr Swinney and Mr Brown to give oral evidence.

Mr Mackay has already provided written evidence to the committee, in which he said there was a “high level of confidence” in the shipyard.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “Prior to summer recess, the Public Audit Committee agreed to invite the former Minister for Transport & Islands and the former chief executive of Transport Scotland to give evidence in its inquiry.

“Choosing witnesses to give evidence beyond these individuals is a matter for the committee.”

And a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Invites to parliamentary committees are entirely a matter for individual committees – not for the Government.”