CalMac ferry scandal: Ferguson's shipyard should be building Scotland's ferries but it needs to be well run. Bring back Jim McColl? – Kenny MacAskill MP

Until we can get a public inquiry into the ferries debacle, let me lay out what I gleam happened and why blame firmly rests with CMAL and the Scottish Government, not the Ferguson yard or Jim McColl.

Vessels 801 and 802 were the wrong type of ships and weren’t wanted by CalMac let alone the communities they’re to serve. Dual-fuel LNG/marine diesel was an absurd choice in a ship of this size. But CMAL insisted and design problems plagued the ships ever after.

The Scottish Government then compounded matters by insisting the work be given to Ferguson’s before the terms of the contract were agreed.

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A cursory check of timelines shows truncated decision-making to allow for a fanfare announcement at Nicola Sturgeon’s first SNP conference as First Minister. That not only meant the price agreed couldn’t possibly match the work required but just what work was required remained open to interpretation and change.

Nicola Sturgeon with businessman Jim McColl at the 2017 'launch ceremony' for MV Glen Sannox at Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow

CMAL’s relationship with Ferguson’s broke down as plans were chopped and changed. The government refused to draw CMAL to heel or fund additional costs that Ferguson’s required.

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The CMAL board threatened to resign en masse if the government intervened. And whilst that action would have doubtless been cheered to the rafters in island communities, the Scottish Government baulked at being exposed by the outgoing board for their initial instructions.

The yard then went into administration and the Scottish Government nationalised it. A turnaround director was put in at significant costs but little has changed. These are simply the wrong vessels and the plans for them are flawed. Just when they’ll sail – if they ever will – is open to question.

Now let me also say that I agree that the contracts should have gone to Ferguson’s as indeed I believe future CalMac vessels should be getting built there.

The yard has the skills and our communities, not Turkey, should be getting the work. But they have to be the right sort of ships and CMAL should be abolished with Scottish ministers taking steps to get the yard run by folk who know what they’re doing. Perhaps, come back Jim McColl!

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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