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by Louise Wilson
14 March 2023
'Unacceptable' bonuses paid to beleaguered shipyard managers, says watchdog

Glen Sannox under construction at the Ferguson shipyard | Alamy

'Unacceptable' bonuses paid to beleaguered shipyard managers, says watchdog

Scotland’s public spending watchdog has said the rising cost of the two over-budget and delayed ferries is “deeply concerning”.

It has also raised the alarm over bonus payments made to managers of the shipyard which were not approved by the Scottish Government, despite it being in public ownership.

The two ferries – one of the which was infamously launched with painted on windows in 2017 – have yet to enter service despite being commissioned in 2015.

They are now more than five years overdue and almost £200m over budget.

Audit Scotland’s latest report says an extra £9.5m will be required to finish the vessels, which will need to be approved.

The body also warns there is doubt about the long-term viability of the shipyard, with further investment needed in both the yard and its workforce to help secure future contracts.

And the auditors also said an £87,000 “performance bonus” paid out to shipyard managers had not been approved, nor was in clear how performance has been assessment or whether appropriate frameworks were in place.

Auditor general Stephen Boyle said: ““It is deeply concerning that the costs to complete these ferries have continued to escalate, whilst the island communities these boats are meant to serve remain significantly impacted. 

“Despite substantial sums of public money being invested, there is still no certainty over how much the ferries will cost, when they will be ready or whether the shipyard has a viable future.

“It is unacceptable that performance bonuses were awarded to senior managers at the shipyard, without proper governance for such payments. The Scottish Government needs to make sure its rules over pay are followed by this public body.”

Ministers are set to make a statement on the ferries and shipyard to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

Scottish Tory transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said it was “remarkable” that the future of the yard was uncertain despite public cash going into it. He said: “The SNP-Green government need to urgently spell out what the future holds for the yard and if they are going to remain competitive in any future procurement processes… The SNP’s ferry scandal demands an independent inquiry to find out the whole truth of this appalling saga.”

Scottish Labour’s Neil Bibby said it was still unclear “what went so badly wrong”. He added: “While the public purse picks up the tab for spiraling costs, senior management are being handed fat cat bonuses with no scrutiny. The SNP need to get a grip of this shambles, deliver these lifeline ferries and secure a future for this iconic shipyard.”

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