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by Louise Wilson
20 May 2022
Derek Mackay invited to submit evidence to ferry inquiry

Derek Mackay invited to submit evidence to ferry inquiry

Former transport minister Derek Mackay has been invited to give evidence to MSPs about his role in the awarding of two ferry contracts without the normal safeguards.

Documents released by the Scottish Government confirmed Mackay signed off on the contracts in 2015 despite the shipyard being unable to provide a full refund guarantee.

That guarantee would have meant any cost overruns for the ferries would have fallen to the shipyard.

The two ferries – destined for the Arran route and the Uig triangle – are now five years late and over £150 million over budget.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee is investigating the matter after public spending watchdog Audit Scotland said there had been “multiple failings” in the process.

Auditor general Stephen Boyle has been particularly critical of the lack of detail around the decision to go ahead with the contract award without the full refund guarantee.

The committee has now sought written evidence from Mackay, as well as former chief of Transport Scotland, David Middleton, and former director-general for enterprise, environment and innovation within the Scottish Government, Graeme Dickson.

Jim McColl, who owned the shipyard when it won the award, has been invited to given evidence in person at a future session, alongside the former CEO Gerry Marshall.

The shipyard was taken into public ownership at the end of 2019 to save it from going into administration, which was itself caused by a dispute over the building of the ferries with CMAL, the public body which manages the procurement.

The committee will take evidence from Transport Scotland and Scottish Government officials next week.

In addition, MSPs have invited CMAL chief Kevin Hobbs and his predecessor Erik Østergaard to attend in future.

Committee convener Richard Leonard said: “Once we have received and considered this evidence, we will decide our next steps.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously pointed to documentation setting out mitigations and safeguards put in place in lieu of the guarantee, and said Mackay was the minister responsible for the decision.

But documents also implicated her deputy, John Swinney, who was briefed by civil servants on the situation.

There have also been a number of disagreements between the Scottish Government, CMAL and the former shipyard about the cause of the delays.

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