Readers Letters: Ross letting Sturgeon off over ferries farrago

In any organisation there are few more distasteful spectacles than buck-passing when a really poor decision has to be defended or justified. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has accepted ultimate responsibility for the Ferguson Marine Ferries debacle (your report, 25 March), but I was surprised at her less than apologetic tone.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament on March 24, 2022 (Picture: Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images)
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament on March 24, 2022 (Picture: Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images)

I was even more surprised that she chose to invoke the name of disgraced former Transport Minister Derek Mackay as the person responsible for the original decision to award the contract in 2015. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross rightly points out that it may be convenient for the Scottish Government to blame someone who is no longer part of the regime; but he has let the First Minister and Cabinet off lightly with his call for a public inquiry. The public have had quite enough of detailed and costly inquiries which highlight “systemic failure” and rarely point the finger at one identifiable individual. If Mr Ross thinks that this is one of the worst public spending disasters since devolution he needs to go in a lot stronger than this.

Mr Mackay certainly had a high profile during the period the contract was awarded. He claimed a lot of political credit for helping solve some of the problems on the Forth Bridge structure in late 2015. But he was not a Cabinet minister at the time. His ultimate boss was certainly Ms Sturgeon but in between was Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Keith Brown. Are we really being asked to believe that Ms Sturgeon and Keith Brown knew nothing about the contract award? For what reason was the advice of experts on the viability of the venture ignored? The Scottish Government is not alone in presiding over botched public contracts. For the sake of public faith in politics, however, there is a need to come clean on what happened. Opposition parties need to be a lot more vigorous in asking questions over this stain on the reputation of the Holyrood government.

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Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife


So Nicola Sturgeon says the buck stops with her over the Ferguson Marine ferry fiasco! In any other walk of life in any organisation, the CEO presiding over such a financial, operational and commercial disaster would be sacked… or would perhaps have the humility and moral decency to resign! No chance – as ever, the Scottish Government will “conduct a review and learn from our mistakes”! You couldn't make it up – and we the taxpayers pick up the tab for the staggering incompetence of these politicians who have never run any form of business in their lives!

Gordon Presly, Kilmarnock

Digging a hole?

Sturgeon has smugly blamed Derek Mackay for the Ferguson ferries debacle. She should beware of repercussions from this cowardly action. “Hell hath no fury like a former trusted colleague, who knows where the skeletons are buried, scorned.”

James Quinn, Lanark, South Lanarkshire

What about…?

Nobody can deny that the Ferguson ferry costs and delays are a mess, albeit with the best of intentions to help Scottish shipbuilding, and not helped by numerous design changes and Covid disruption.

However, to put it into perspective, the over budget costs are much less than the mismanagement of the Edinburgh trams project or the Holyrood building under the Labour/Lib Dem coalition, and pales into insignificance compared to the ongoing costs of Labour’s very expensive PFI building contracts imposed on Scottish health boards and education authorities.

None of this can match the cost of Brexit and numerous examples of Westminster waste, including awarding a Brexit ferry contract to a firm that owned no ships and never ran a channel service. Modernising the Palace of Westminster is expected to last 30 years and cost £6 billion. Billions have been wasted on Covid contracts awarded to companies with no prior experience set up by Tory donors and their friends.

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On Wednesday the UK government sneaked out a report from the independent fiscal watchdog that the government bailout of failed British energy supplier Bulb will cost taxpayers an additional £500 million over two years, taking the total support required to £2.2bn to cover the company’s operating costs over the next two years.

A timely reminder of the cost of Thatcher’s deregulation using money from “Scotland’s Oil” and making the City of London the money laundering capital of the world.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

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Ferries fiasco: Demands for Derek Mackay to give evidence to Scottish MSPs


The pit of incompetence dug by this totally inept and corrupt SNP administration becomes ever deeper and whilst we, the voters, should be appalled at the incompetence, we should be also be utterly ashamed. Their disastrous policies are costing real lives. The drugs death scandal in Scotland is bad enough but now we have the Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimating that their were 240 avoidable deaths since the start of the year while people were waiting in A&E.

What a shocking indictment of the past promises of this government. The First Minister flip flops around responsibility, one minute “the buck stops with me” and the next minute the disgraced Derek Mackay is blamed for the ferries scandal. Surely at some stage, even a smidgen of the truckloads of mud being deservedly slung at the First Minister will stick?

To those who think independence will solve all of our problems, dream on. It does not take independence to demonstrate the incapability and incompetence of Nicola Sturgeon and her cabal, now in full view for all to see. If the buck stops with her and if she had a shred of decency, she would resign.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Biomass lunacy

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While I am sure we all support the long-term vision of greener energy we cannot ignore, in the short to medium term, the problem highlighted by the Ukraine crisis – the dependency of the UK and Europe on Russia for oil and gas energy which, by the autumn, will be highlighted by fuel poverty for a huge number of households .

One illustration of the Green fuel lunacy is the Drax biomass power station in Yorkshire. Drax cuts its trees in the Mississippi delta, chips them, then transports the biomass chips in pollution-creating ships across the Atlantic to Humberside and the Drax Power Station.

What do Drax get out of this arrangement – well, in 2021 they got UK subsidies of £893 million and when the scheme concludes in 2027 they will have received subsidies of no less than £11,000,000,000.

Perhaps the Greens might defer their headlong drive for wind power and support Shell’s rethink and support the development of the Cambo Field and other medium-term energy sources, such as shale.

Robin Jack, Edinburgh

Look inward

Nicola Sturgeon has accused the Westminster government of delaying public spending in a disgusting effort to bribe the electorate.Please take note: the money being lost by taxpayers over the disastrous ferry fiasco could have helped poverty in Scotland a long way.

Ebyth Morton, Edinburgh

Where’s my bike?

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It was with incredulity that I read of Nicola Sturgeon’s accusation that Rishi Sunak was, in his statement on Wednesday, offering bribes to electors. Pot and kettle do not cover the brazenness of this claim. Whatever happened to all the goodies the SNP has offered Scottish voters in advance of elections?

Wasn’t it only before the May elections last year that there were SNP promises of yet more “free” things that do not come without cost? I seem to remember bicycles and laptops figuring on that occasion. I take it they have all been delivered? No, actually, I don’t.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

Listen to expert

Thank you for publishing Professor Matthew Williams’ cogent and persuasive piece establishing the rapidity of deterioration of planet Earth’s health over the past 20 years – and outlining how retrieval is still possible by action that follows scientific findings (Perspective, 23 March). It was encouraging to note that Prof Williams is a recently appointed scientific adviser to the Scottish Government.

After reading yesterday’s account of the ferry debacle, involving Scottish Government disregard of expert advice and covering decision-making tracks in a surprisingly naive manner, it is to be hoped Prof Williams’ scientific expertise and communication talents can be fully utilised to persuade citizens of what they can do individually and collectively, and the Scottish Government to develop effective, publicly visible strategies to progress restoration of biodiversity and a net-zero future.

Jan e Griffiths, Edinburgh

Endless love

Stuart Weir writes of care for a dying person bestowing “value and love” on him or her (Friends of the Scotsman, 24 March). It has long seemed to me that the surest sign of love for someone is when one wants what is best for that person more than one wants what is best for oneself. Those who are prepared to spend longer mourning the loss of someone they love, rather than have that person linger in suffering, are surely showing great self-sacrificial love.

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It would be wonderful if medicine could provide perfect, tailor-made palliative treatment for each suffering individual, but as I saw during the final months of my own mother's life, even the best such care cannot guarantee the absence of pain, nausea and distress. Assisted dying is a valuable, compassionate and loving option for our society.

Wendy Bellars, Pittenweem, Fife

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