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by Joseph Anderson
24 March 2022
Sturgeon defends ferries contract decision

The much-maligned Glen Sannox ferry, still awaiting completion

Sturgeon defends ferries contract decision

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended her government’s decision to award the Ferguson Marine shipyard contracts for two ferries – despite "significant risks" over the yard's inability to provide financial guarantees.

Earlier this week, Audit Scotland published the findings of its report into the contract awarded to the Ferguson Marine shipyard for two ferries in 2015.

The construction of the ferries has been plagued by problems. The first of the two ferries, the Glen Sannox, was supposed to enter service in the summer of 2018 but will now not be finished until at least spring 2023.

The Audit Scotland report found that the two vessels will now cost at least £240m – around two-and-a-half times their original cost – and that Scottish ministers awarded the contract to Ferguson Marine despite the yard being unable to provide “mandatory refund guarantees” for the financial risk to Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMal), the Scottish Government firm which owns CalMac’s ferries.

At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross described the scandal as “one of the worst public spending disasters since devolution”, and called for a public inquiry into the awarding of the contract.

Responding, Sturgeon said that although the Ferguson Marine bid was the most expensive bid it received, it scored highly on the “quality” assessment of the bid. The First Minister also said that there was “mitigation” for the financial risks that concerned CMal.

However, when asked which minister took responsiblity for the decision, Sturgeon said her government takes “collective decisions” and “ultimately, the buck stops with me”.

Sturgeon said: “Who was Transport Minister at the time in question is, of course, a matter of public record. That was Derek Mackay.

“But of course, this is a government and this may be alien to the Conservatives, I understand, but this is a government that operates by collective responsibility.

“And ultimately, as with any decisions - whether I am personally involved in them or not, responsibility stops with me.”

To which Ross replied: "The First Minister says she takes ultimate responsibility then throws an ex minister - a disgraced SNP ex minister - under the bus."

The First Minister said that her government will follow the advice of Audit Scotland to conduct a “formal review” of the debacle, but did not confirm whether this would take the form of a public enquiry.

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