Clyde and Hebrides ferries delayed again until end of 2023
The two overdue ferries for the Clyde and Hebrides route are now scheduled to come into service in 2023, five years later than originally planned.
Economy secretary Kate Forbes told MSPs that while progress had been made since the Scottish Government nationalised the Fergus Marine shipyard in 2019, it had “not been as fast as we would have liked, largely due to ongoing legacy issues.”
But she insisted the government had made its expectations clear to the board of the shipyard and that the two vessels must be delivered as soon as possible.
Scottish Labour has said Forbes must “stake her reputation” on the ferries and resign if they are not delivered next year.
David Tydeman, who took over as CEO of Ferguson Marine in December, has written to MSPs on the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee to confirm the new timetable and costs.
It is expected the first will launch between March and May next year, while the second will be delivered between October and December 2023.
The further delay has been put down to necessary remedial works due to ongoing and unknown legacy issues.
The costs of the additional work, plus a new warranty cost, is expected to increase the price tag of the ferries by £122.5– 126.5m.
This takes the total expected cost to £240m, two and a half times higher than the original £97m.
In a statement in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Forbes said: “I expect the yard, as a priority, to complete those vessels successfully at the fastest most achievable pace. I expect the yard to turn around its operations so it’s competitive, productive and efficient. And I expect the yard to win and secure a further pipeline of work on the basis of its operations.”
It follows a damning report from Audit Scotland which highlighted “multiple failings” in the procurement process for the ferries, including a lack of transparency around decision making.
The public spending watchdog reported that ministers pressed ahead with the award of the contract to Ferguson Marine despite concerns raised by CMAL (the body which will eventually own the ferries) regarding a full refund guarantee.
The cabinet secretary said she accepted the report’s recommendations and work was already underway to respond to a number of them, including strengthening relations between CMAL and Ferguson.
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said ministers failed to put in place financial safeguards “from the very start” and it was island communities who were bearing the brunt of the problem.
Urging Forbes to resign if the ferries were not ready next year, he said: “If you are not confident enough, cabinet secretary, to stake your position on this, why should any islanders have any confidence in what you’re saying now? And what is the point in being responsible for this if you’re just going to keep passing the buck?”
Forbes said the government had been “quite clear” about what it expected from the shipyard.
The Scottish Tories’ Graham Simpson said ministers “should be ashamed” of the Audit Scotland report.
He called for a full public inquiry into the awarding of the contract, but Forbes refused to back to suggestion, insisting the Audit Scotland report and an inquiry held by a Scottish Parliament committee had been “comprehensive” and “thorough”.