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by Kirsteen Paterson
08 November 2022
Nicola Sturgeon 'may have breached Ministerial Code' over ferry meeting minutes, Tory MSP claims

Nicola Sturgeon and Jim McColl pictured at Ferguson Marine in 2017

Nicola Sturgeon 'may have breached Ministerial Code' over ferry meeting minutes, Tory MSP claims

A Conservative MSP has written to Nicola Sturgeon demanding ferry meeting minutes – and claiming she may have breached the Ministerial Code.

In a letter made public today, Craig Hoy tells the FM that "the Scottish Ministerial Code requires these meetings must be recorded" in light of evidence given before a parliamentary committee.

Sturgeon appeared before the Public Audit Committee (PAC) last week to give evidence on the ongoing ferries row.

MSPs heard that the SNP leader met with Jim McColl, the then-owner of ferries firm Ferguson Marine, in May 2017. She told the committee that she was unable to say whether or not minutes had been taken, but PAC member Hoy says there is "no excuse" for them not to have been recorded and made available to the committee.

The South of Scotland MSP said: "It would be a clear breach of the Ministerial Code for minutes of such an important meeting not to have been recorded, so I can't imagine those present would have allowed that to happen.

"It's incumbent on the First Minister and her staff to locate the minutes so that we know the reason for the meeting, what was discussed and who was present at it."

The two dual-fuel ferries ordered from Ferguson Marine for the Clyde and Hebridean routes has been "fraught with problems and delays", according to a report by Audit Scotland. The vessels are expected to cost at least £240m, more than double their original budget, and are several years late.

The PAC heard that Sturgeon attended the May 2017 meeting with a special adviser. The FM described such staff, who are appointed by government, as "temporary civil servants".

The Ministerial Code states that a private secretary or official should be present at discussions relating to government business and Hoy has further queried whether a special advisor fulfils that requirement, "bearing in mind they are a political appointment".

He commented: "Ms Sturgeon has claimed throughout the ferries fiasco that she has nothing to hide and is eager to be as transparent as possible. Now is her chance to prove that."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The First Minister gave a commitment to see whether information relating to the meeting with Mr McColl on 31st May 2017 – and the actions she asked officials to take forward as a result of the meeting – can be made available to the committee if members have not already seen that, and will respond to Mr Hoy and the committee in due course.

"As the First Minister said in her initial response to Mr Hoy, special advisers are temporary civil servants appointed in accordance with Part 1 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and, as such, constitute an 'official' in terms of the Ministerial Code."

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