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Derek Mackay: There was a high level of confidence in ferries scandal shipyard

The unfinished Glen Sannox ferry remains in the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde (Jane Barlow/PA)
The unfinished Glen Sannox ferry remains in the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde (Jane Barlow/PA)

Former transport minister Derek Mackay has provided written evidence on his involvement in the Scottish Government’s ferries scandal.

Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee confirmed on Friday that it had received a response from Mr Mackay after it asked him to provide any information he had on the decision to award a contract for two new ferries to Ferguson Marine.

The two vessels – the Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed hull 802 – were originally due to be completed in 2018, but have since been delayed until at least 2023.

They are also vastly over budget, with the latest estimated cost being at least £250 million.

Mr Mackay held the transport brief at the time the contract was approved, and an email trail uncovered by the Scottish Government last month suggests he made the final decision in 2015.

In his response to the committee, dated June 23, Mr Mackay said he was satisfied that “all relevant officials” had been involved in the submission, upon receiving information on concerns from procurement body Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal) over Ferguson Marine being unable to offer a full builder’s refund guarantee.

Hull 802
The Glex Sannox and hull 802 are expected to be delivered five years late (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Mackay said there was “no further information requested or discussion that I recall” from stakeholders on the matter.

The former transport minister said he had appreciated that risks were identified and were understood to be resolved, but had “confidence” in the recommendation to proceed with awarding the contract as the submission had followed the “necessary process, procurement assessment and milestone stages”.

He added: “There was a high level of confidence in the yard, which had successfully completed other vessels for the CalMac fleet.

“There was also an expectation that there would be sufficient monitoring and oversight.”

Mr Mackay said he was first made aware of problems and delays in December 2016, after which he was updated “as appropriate” by officials.

In order to resolve the dispute, Mr Mackay said he “made every effort to take advice, ensure fairness, provide challenge and support to officials, engage with other ministers and request review and independent intervention when necessary”.

However, he said Scottish ministers did not force Cmal and Ferguson Marine to use the dispute resolution mechanisms within the contracts as the nature of the row would have “rendered such a forced action redundant”.

Mr Mackay was quizzed on why the Scottish Government took the decision to nationalise the struggling shipyard without having a full understanding of the costs and challenges involved.

He said it was believed that the best way to deliver on the completion of the vessels, safeguard the jobs of the workforce and secure future shipbuilding on the Clyde was to proceed with nationalisation, and he added the move would have included “a range of considerations”.

He wrote: “The option of finding another commercial buyer was also not ruled out, but the public ownership option was the best outcome at the time and the right thing to do in the circumstances.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The committee will consider the content of the letters, and next steps, when it meets on Thursday.

“At that meeting, the committee looks forward to hearing from the chief executive officer, interim chair and former chair of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited as it continues its scrutiny of the Auditor General’s report.”

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