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by Louise Wilson
06 December 2022
Keith Brown criticised for ‘evasive’ answers in ferry inquiry

Keith Brown criticised for ‘evasive’ answers in ferry inquiry

A cross-party committee has criticised senior minister Keith Brown for being “evasive” and “unwilling to engage” with its inquiries.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee has written to the cabinet secretary urging him to provide further evidence.

The letter also questions whether Brown has followed the ministerial code which says ministers “should be as open as possible with the parliament”.

The correspondence relates to the committee’s inquiry into the delayed and overbudget ferries which were commissioned in 2015 but are still to be delivered.

The price tag for the two new vessels has risen from £97m to £250m during that time.

Brown held the position of Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities at the time Ferguson Marine was awarded the contract, with Derek Mackay – then transport minister – serving as his junior.

He wrote to the committee last week, in response to a request for further information, saying: “I am content that those responses are accurate and that I do not have any further information to provide.”

But MSPs on the committee said his answers were “both unsatisfactory and evasive”.

Convener Richard Leonard wrote: “The committee is extremely disappointed by your failure, once again, to provide sufficient answers to the questions we sought to help inform our scrutiny despite our best efforts. Your unwillingness to engage constructively with the committee is disrespectful to both the committee and the parliament.”

Pointing to sections of the ministerial code which relate to how ministers should interact with parliament, Leonard added: “We now find ourselves in the regrettable position of questioning whether these requirements have been followed in this case.

“The committee is now turning its attention to producing a report of our scrutiny, which will be published in the coming months. I expect we will wish to consider in this report the level of engagement we have had with Scottish ministers and stakeholders during the course of our work, and how this is reflected in our conclusions and recommendations.”

The committee has asked Brown to submit any further evidence by 6 January.

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