Ferguson shipyard ferries fiasco: Why does Scottish government rely so heavily on 'Big Four' consultancy firms? – Brian Wilson

A Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Edward Mountain, has done sterling work through Freedom of Information to explore Tim Hair’s appointment as “turnaround director” of the Ferguson shipyard.

The Ferguson shipyard is currently owned by the Scottish government (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The Ferguson shipyard is currently owned by the Scottish government (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

His fees have so far contributed close on £1 million to the predicted £300 million cost of building a couple of ferries. Mr Mountain chaired a Holyrood committee which produced a scathing report on the Ferguson debacle only to have its unanimous conclusion of “catastrophic failure” dismissed by Scottish government ministers.

By submitting a Freedom on Information request, Mr Mountain established that two civil servants who recommended Mr Hair’s appointment (signed off by then Finance Minister, Derek McKay) never actually met him (and all this was pre-pandemic); that his last maritime experience was on a cruise ship in 1988; and that his credentials were confirmed by referees suggested by himself. Presumably there was nobody in Scotland deemed up to the job.

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The short-list from which Mr Hair emerged was drawn up by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This chimed with another question which occasionally occurs to me. Why does every Scottish government department and quango now seem dependent on reports and advice from the “big four” consultancy/accountancy firms, most of it the work that civil servants used to do?

It seems that they are also now working as a very expensive recruitment agency. Perhaps an MSP as forensic in his questioning as Mr Mountain could find out how much we are now paying to keep the Edinburgh troughs of these four outfits full to the brims – and if we get better government or value as a result?

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