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Nicola Sturgeon: Ex-Ferguson Marine staff can speak to watchdog about ferries

Nicola Sturgeon said Ferguson Marine employees could speak to Audit Scotland or any other investigations (Jane Barlow/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon said Ferguson Marine employees could speak to Audit Scotland or any other investigations (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ferguson Marine employees can speak to a watchdog over the issues experienced at the yard, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

A report by Audit Scotland released last month found that the ferries would be delivered at least five years late and cost as much as £240 million – a figure which now stands at £250 million following an update.

The auditor general, Stephen Boyle, said last week he was not able to speak to anyone connected with the yard because of a non-disclosure agreement, but added on Thursday that he would speak to staff members should the agreement be waived.

But there appears to be some confusion about the nature of the non-disclosure agreement, after the First Minister said the Scottish Government negotiated for staff to be freed from confidentiality agreements.

MV Glen Sannox
The ships will be delivered at least five years late (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The Scottish Government actually negotiated with (Ferguson Marine Engineering) the previous owner of the yard’s administrators to secure the release of their employees who gave evidence to the committee inquiry from their terms and conditions of employment confidentiality obligations,” she said during First Minister’s Questions.

“The Scottish Government fully complied with Audit Scotland’s inquiry and will encourage everybody to do so with any future investigations or inquiries.”

The First Minister added: “Nobody in the employment of Ferguson’s shipyard will be prevented in any way, shape or form from speaking to Audit Scotland and speaking in full to Audit Scotland.”

Before the ferry contract was approved, the Scottish Government’s ferry procurement body, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal), raised concerns that a full builder’s guarantee was not part of the agreement, but the decision was taken to award the deal to Ferguson regardless.

The Audit Scotland report found there was insufficient “documentary evidence” to show why the decision was taken forward without the guarantee, something Mr Boyle said was a source of “frustration” for the body.

Under questioning from Tory leader, Douglas Ross, the First Minister said: “There is one piece of documentation that is not there, which is the formal record of the decision to proceed with the final contract award.”

The First Minister went on to reference the auditor general, who said it was his belief that a record of why the contract went ahead was not forthcoming was because it did not exist, rather than it had been withheld.

She added that the note would confirm that ministers were content to take on the risk of the contract moving forward without the guarantee, but that decision could be inferred from other documents already in the public domain.

But the reasons why ministers were content with the contract being finalised has still not been made public.

Mr Ross said: “Now we’re expected to believe there is not a shred of evidence about the final crucial decision.

“They were so proud of it, they didn’t want anyone to know about it.

“First Minister, given your pride, that should have been hanging on your wall.”

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