The former boss of Ferguson Marine shipyard, Jim McColl, slammed the Scottish Government in a blame game over the delivery of two new long-delayed ferries.
Tycoon Mr McColl sent his detailed view of the controversy to MSPs saying claims made by the government could not be “further from the truth”.
Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland had recently described how two new ferries at the shipyard in Port Glasgow were fraught with delays and overspends.
Scotland’s Auditor General Stephen Boyle has since told a Holyrood committee he was frustrated when writing this report because he was not able to review all the documents relating to the awarded of the ferry contract to Ferguson Marine.
Now Mr McColl says the Audit Scotland report contains inaccuracies and is a “gross misrepresentation” of what actually happened.
‘Nothing could be further from the truth’
Since the shipyard was awarded the contract to build the two new ferries in 2017, the estimated delivery has been pushed back by five years and costs have increased from £97 million to at least £250m.
The yard also had to be saved from administration by the Scottish Government.
However, in correspondence sent to parliament, Mr McColl said the shipyard alerted the government to the seriousness of the situation and raised “red flags” with the first minister as far back as 2017.
He said: “[Audit Scotland] appears to have accepted without question the Scottish Government’s false narrative that this is all down to the inadequacy of Ferguson Marine.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He added: “All through the report there are statements about Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd [CMAL] and the Scottish Government which are presented as if they are factually accurate which they are not.”
Mr McColl also said some parts of the report are “heavily biased” towards CMAL, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.
Auditor General ‘frustrated’
Scotland’s Auditor General Stephen Boyle also voiced his “frustration” at the lack of records and documents when compiling this report.
He told MSPs: “There’s clearly a frustration from us that we weren’t able to review what we would consider to be all the relevant evidence.
“Our judgement is not that evidence has been withheld from us during the course of our audit work, but rather that an important piece of documentary evidence wasn’t prepared to arrive at the judgement that ministers arrive at – to accept the scale of risk so unusual in the scale of this contract and contrary to the advice of the public body [CMAL] which oversees the contract.”
He is due to speak to MSPs again on this next week.
Given the significance of the issues and volume of detail in the @AuditScotland report, the Committee has decided to take further evidence next week with the Auditor General.
Following the completion of this evidence gathering, we will decide our next steps. https://t.co/RKylNJjSxy
— Public Audit Committee (@SP_PublicAudit) April 21, 2022
Calls for a public inquiry
Following the auditor general and Mr McColl’s comments, the Scottish Conservatives ramped up their calls for a public inquiry.
Graham Simpson MSP, transport spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “At best the SNP government is guilty of shocking negligence – and at worse, they have broken the law to try and cover up dodgy dealings.
Island communities who rely on vital ferry links deserve an apology from Nicola Sturgeon.
Instead they got a dismissive, "oh, for goodness sake"👇 pic.twitter.com/tkVM0XKXCS
— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) April 20, 2022
“The SNP government must now submit to a public inquiry to answer to the Scottish public, and get to the bottom of this fiasco once and for all.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also highlighted the ferry fiasco at First Minister’s Questions, saying it is just one of many examples of the SNP “wasting” public money.
In response to Mr Sarwar’s criticism, Ms Sturgeon said the detail was “ridiculous” and said it was an “utter mischaracterisation” to say the SNP was wasting public funds.