Letters: Swinney claims on ferries sign-off incredible

So John Swinney claims that he gave “budget approval” to the Ferguson ferries contract capital expenditure (CapEx) award but didn't give it the “final nod” (your report, 12 May)!,

What complete and utter nonsense. Anyone who has been involved in business in a senior management capacity knows how these CapEx processes actually play out in the “real” commercial day-to-day world.

The Board evaluates and approves a list of CapEx projects as part of the the business’s annual budgeting process. If any “non-budget” CapEx proposals crop up during the financial year then the Board evaluates these separately and either approves them or not depending on their commercial viability and company financial headroom available.

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When the time comes for “actual” financial commitment and contract negotiations to commence with the supplier for any of these budgeted or non-budgeted CapEx items, that financial commitment must be physically “signed off” on an official company auditable document by the Finance Director and/or the CEO or another Board Director.

Nicola Sturgeon refused to have John Swinney speak to MSPs over the ferries fiasco at FMQs this week (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon refused to have John Swinney speak to MSPs over the ferries fiasco at FMQs this week (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon refused to have John Swinney speak to MSPs over the ferries fiasco at FMQs this week (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

In most cases, on a CapEx project at the “top end” of the company's expenditure range, at least two Director's signatures are required.

For someone in John Swinney's position to use such amateurish language and terminology devoid of understanding of “due process” in relation to such a massive financial CapEx commitment in the public sector is utterly staggering!

He is either incompetent, covering up, being economical with the truth or a mixture of all three. It is truly despairing to witness.

Gordon Presly, Crosshouse, Kilmarnock

Open contempt?

What is the point in having First Ministers Questions if Nicola Sturgeon will not only not answer the questions posed but instead always tries to belittle those posing the question itself.

Douglas Ross reasonably asked if John Swinney might care to explain not only to the Scottish parliament but to taxpayers just why he allowed the ferries deal to go ahead. Why did Nicola Sturgeon not let this happen? Similarly despite Anas Sarwar’s pleas that no sensitive information needed to be divulged in order to answer his questions these were also batted away. Nicola Sturgeon keeps claiming her government is open and transparent but this is demonstrably not the case. Never answering just breeds further suspicion.

Gerald Edwards, Glasgow


The hole that the SNP and John Swinney seem to be digging themselves is getting to be as big as the overspend on the ferry contracts. While the latest e-mail refers to Mr Swinney as the Deputy First Minister, he was, more importantly, the Finance Secretary at the time that he gave the final authorisation. Nicola Sturgeon’s spokesperson claims that Mr Swinney was “not aware of the financial risks”.

How can any competent Finance Secretary authorise a project without understanding the implications? Mr Swinney was therefore either negligent in his duty to protect taxpayers’ funds or this is just more spin, determined to put the blame onto a politician who is no longer in post?

Jane Lax, Aberlour, Moray

Unfit for purpose

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It has been apparent for some time that the parliamentary system at Holyrood is not working at all well. The recent exchanges about the ferries fiasco have demonstrated this clearly.

Nicola Sturgeon leads a government that will not take responsibility for any misadventure or mistake made on its watch. It has most recently used a former minister as scapegoat for decisions that everyone believes were taken at a higher level than his then position as Transport Secretary. As the Auditor General has commented, the Scottish Government's lack of transparency is a problem. It has virtually authoritarian power because there are no checks or balances of the kind that there are at Westminster. Importantly, the role of strong select committees there has not been replicated in the Holyrood apparatus, where the Executive dominates committees.

All of this is a matter of extreme concern in an atmosphere where the ruling regime is campaigning for Scotland to be entirely separate from the UK, with untrammelled power in the hands of people who are clearly unfit to exercise it. Holyrood is not fit for purpose. It is an experiment that has failed.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Job well done

The CalMac ferry contract issue is turning into a never-ending TV soap opera that had little traction with last week’s voting public.

However, the procurement process or who signed the Cal Mac ferry contract are merely sideshows compared to the actual problems with construction. No one is denying that it is a costly mess, albeit with the best of intentions to maintain Scotland's commercial shipbuilding capacity, and not helped by numerous design changes plus nine months of Covid shutdown.

Ferguson’s bid was non-profit, to help win future contracts and CMAL thought it was the best quality, but the most expensive, bid. However, as Ferguson’s could not provide a full contract guarantee, this was reduced to 50 per cent liability and a judgement call was made by the Scottish Government in order to create 400 jobs.

Opponents of the SNP would have been the first to complain if this work had gone abroad and the Polish and German yards that previously built ferries for CMAL went into administration with both ships needing additional remedial work.

Any useful inquiry into ferries in Scotland would also investigate why independent Ireland has 44 direct weekly sailings to Europe while Scottish exporters are paying the Brexit price of goods being held up at Dover.

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By comparison, there is little media interest in the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers which were years late and £1. 5 billion over budget with an ongoing unreliable propulsion system that is scheduled to take until 2028 to fully repair, with several vessels currently out of action at a time of heightened tensions with Russia.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Read More
John Swinney confirms giving botched ferries fiasco contract 'budget approval'

Band of soloists

The Scottish people have, once again, shown, in the local council elections, their strong approval for the SNP, and their clearly stated intention to have, in the next couple of years, a referendum on independence. The Conservatives have lost 62 seats, whilst Labour have gained 19, but the SNP have, yet again, increased their lead on both.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the success of Sinn Fein, a party which supports the unification of Ireland, has set the cat among the pigeons, winning 27 seats to become the largest party, the first time a non-unionist party has achieved this since the formation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago. In Wales the nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, now controls four councils, and a large swathe of the rural parts of the country, quadrupling the number of councils under their control. The Conservatives have lost control over the only council they previously had overall control of, while Labour holds 8 councils, down 1.

So, where does the Union go from here? Clearly the people of Scotland believe that they are best governed by the SNP, and have shown this consistently for all of this century so far. In Northern Ireland, for the first time since the country was founded, a party which does not support the union has garnered the highest number of seats. And in Wales, the Conservatives have been given a drubbing, and their Labour accomplices have also lost ground, with the Welsh party the clear winners on the night.

Only in England do the unionists reign supreme, Conservatives most of the time, with an occasional Labour interlude to remind the rich and powerful of what they don’t like. How long has the Union got?

Les Mackay, Dundee

Peat principle

I am all in favour of levelling up. Therefore we should introduce a tax on peat cutting. Why should some get free fuel when I pay £350 each month?A charge to cut peats could be introduced. This would have the additional benefit of helping the environment and not destroying peat bogs.

Alastair Paisley, Juniper Green, Edinburgh

Sweden wins

In her letter of 13 May, Mary Thomas did not outline to your readers about the policy to pay for the decommissioning of UK nuclear plant. The industry plan was for an agreed contribution from the sale of nuclear-generated electricity to be placed into a trust similar to the Swedish model to ensure that there were funds that would cover all decommissioning costs.

However, the model set up 70 years ago by the UK Government was for the Treasury to receive all the cash made from the sale of the energy produced over the lifetime of the plant that was used to provide infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and rail upgrades.

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As a prid pro quo, the taxpayer would fund all decommissioning costs required by the industry. Now current taxpayers may not be happy with these arrangements but it should be noted that, over the last 70 years, no major campaign has ever been organised to complain about the lack of a Swedish-type policy !

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway

You said it

I see from the report in The Scotsman of 12 May that a contributor to its website says the Scottish Government “must take the electorate for a bunch of idiots”. Well, at least that’s one thing the Scottish Government has got right.

S Beck, Edinburgh

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