Bus tycoon accuses SNP of using taxpayers' cash like 'confetti' in Ferguson Marine ferries scandal

The owner of one of Scotland’s most successful bus companies has said the controversy over the building of two new ferries at the Ferguson Marine shipyard was a "national embarrassment”.

Sandy Easdale, who owns the Greenock-based McGill’s Buses, spoke out in the wake of fresh revelations the Scottish Government paid consultant Tim Hair a total of £791,285 last year to run the stricken yard in Port Glasgow.

Mr Easdale, who along with his brother James, had expressed an interest in buying the shipyard when it went into administration in 2014, before it was sold to Jim McColl and subsequently won a £97 million contract for two new CalMac vessels.

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Sandy Easdale has criticised the building of two new ferries.

The two ferries are still not complete and Mr Hair was brought in as “turn-around director” by shamed ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay two years ago, after the government nationalised the shipyard in the face of spiralling costs.

Mr Easdale said people were “sick of the national embarrassment” that had been “created by government around the once proud Ferguson Marine shipyard” with “tax contributions thrown around like confetti.”

He said: “The situation at Ferguson’s since the first administration has been nothing short of a national scandal. I know the skills and talent that were there when we looked at the business in 2014 – it needed leadership and investment to make it prosper.

“Instead, time after time, the workers at Ferguson’s and the people of Inverclyde have been let down by mismanagement and a succession of individuals only interested in lining their own pockets at the taxpayers’ expense.

Ferguson Marine is at the heart of the dispute over SNP spending. Picture: John Devlin

“When you think the situation can’t get much worse, then news breaks that £790,000 of public cash is being paid to a consultant to run the yard. This is while staff are leaving in their droves because they no longer want to be associated with the scandal that the SNP Government has created there.”

Inverclyde SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said: “The SNP Scottish Government deserves great credit for taking the yard into public ownership when other parties would have stood idly by and let the yard go under.

“This investment saved more than 300 jobs and more have been created since then. The focus is now on building a bright future for the yard that will provide well-paid and skilled jobs for generations to come.”

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