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Jim McColl claims Derek Mackay defamed his company's management of the CalMac ferry build

Flickr RP Marks

Jim McColl claims Derek Mackay defamed his company's management of the CalMac ferry build

He said that it was “grossly misleading” and “appalling” that Mackay had handed out a highly critical report to MSPs, which McColl said was “nonsense”

Jim McColl has accused the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay of defaming his company and its management of the Ferguson Marine shipyard in parliament. 

He said that it was “grossly misleading” and “appalling” that Mackay had handed out a highly critical report to MSPs, which McColl said was “nonsense”.

He also claimed that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had publicly announced that his company was the preferred bidder for the contract before the terms had been fully agreed. 

McColl said: "Before we agreed the negotiation, the First Minister had announced we had been selected as preferred bidders and the price was £97 million."

The Scottish Government had been in the process of negotiating down the price of the contract from £105m at the time, he claimed.

He said that the government told him he would “just have to accept it” and that the entire process had left him feeling “shafted”. 

McColl was giving evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which is investigating what went wrong in the lead up to the collapse of the shipyard, which was taken into public ownership last year. 

He said that a report compiled by Tim Hair, the turnaround manager of the shipyard who was appointed by the Scottish Government, was “absolute nonsense” 

McColl disagreed with the report’s claim that 95 per cent of the two ships' design had not been agreed with the government more than four years after the contract was first signed. 

He said: “What’s happened since the government moved in, is that they have got rid of all of the senior people that were involved with that without any handover. 

“We had a very good project management system in place, where twice daily it was updated and it was a well-controlled, with every key member on the project in that room twice a day. 

“It was a very good system put in place by Gerry Marshall [former CEO of Ferguson Marine Engineering ltd], and probably the best I’ve seen in any business.  

“It’s been abandoned since the government went in. There’s been no project planning meetings in the past six months and, he’s quite right that there’s no project plan in place. 

“But it’s grossly misleading and, you know, I think it’s appalling that we had a minister stand up in parliament and defame the management by waving this report in the air which is all absolutely nonsense compared to reality,” he said.

“I’m getting a bit too heated,” he said.

He also told the committee that "before agreement, the First Minister announced we had been selected as the preferred bidder."

He claimed that the government then said he would “just have to accept it”. 

In December, Mackay gave an update to parliament on the situation with the shipyard. 

He said at that time: “The challenges that the new management team has faced include the failure to implement a sound management information system on which to base any assessment of progress to date, and critical issues with the design process for the vessels and the approvals process for that design—the design programme for the vessels, which was the responsibility of [Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd] as part of the design and build contract, is several years behind, and getting it back on schedule will be a key area of work. 

“Project planning was largely absent, which resulted in out-of-sequence and often abortive work. 

“Controls on subcontracted resource and materials were lacking. Quality control through the build-out process was largely absent, and the vessels have not been maintained in the condition in which we would expect them to be maintained.” 

Following the committee session, the Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles MSP said: “Jim McColl’s evidence to the committee was astonishing. 

“There was a problem with this contract right from the outset. The First Minister undermined it by being more interested in PR gloss than setting the project out on the right footing. 

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money is the cost of Scottish Government incompetence. 

“This project is running years behind schedule, communities aren’t getting the boats they were promised and there are now serious questions about whether they ever will.” 

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Jamie Greene said: “The plot thickens with every piece of evidence this inquiry hears. 

“SNP ministers from the First Minister down are mired in this shambles. 

“The taxpayer is out of pocket to the tune of £230 million, no new ferries have been delivered for our island communities, and now the SNP is doing everything it can to cover up this scandal.

“This goes straight to the top of the SNP government and the time for apologies has long past. 

“The First Minister, her finance secretary and a raft of SNP ministers must be properly held to account over their gross incompetence and negligence. 

“Jim McColl is right in demanding that only a full public inquiry, with witnesses giving evidence under oath, will unearth why hundreds of millions of pounds of public money has been so badly mishandled by the SNP.”

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