Email discovery allows SNP to evade central ferry questions

It is rare for a government to trumpet such a clear-cut example of its own organisational incompetence and disorganisation.

But that is exactly what transport minister Jenny Gilruth stood up to on Wednesday to do.

She rose and announced the missing document signing off the award of the now delayed and massively over-budget ferries to Ferguson Marine had been found.

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SNP ministers say 'missing' ferries fiasco document has been found

What luck! An email that could not be found for the independent financial scrutiny body, Audit Scotland, appears just on the day you need it most.

And after an election, no less.

This email, found in the depths of a civil servant’s emails, handily discovered just before another damaging opposition debate, adds nothing to the public’s understanding as to why the risks were considered appropriate.

Let us revisit this key issue.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth. Picture: PA

Ministers were told there were serious concerns about the financial risk of awarding the doomed contract to Ferguson Marine in 2015.

Derek Mackay, with the rubber stamp of John Swinney, appeared satisfied to take on those risks, but no-one has bothered to write down why.

Why ministers decided to accept the significant transfer of fiscal risk from the shipyard and back on to the Government, as the Auditor General puts it, remains the key issue around the ferries fiasco.

It is the central criticism of the Audit Scotland report, which states “there is insufficient documentary evidence to explain why Scottish ministers accepted the risks and were content to approve the contract award”.

That documentary evidence still does not exist.

Instead, an email, which allows Mr Mackay to be blamed, has been found and the narrative there is nothing to see set in motion by the SNP.

We may get answers as and when Mr Mackay is asked to give evidence in front of MSPs.

But rescuing this email from the depths of the Government’s information dumps should deeply concern anyone interested in transparency and accountability.

Any confidence that key decisions are recorded appropriately by the Government now has a ferry-shaped question mark above it.

The time taken to find it raises the question of what else has been lost in the digital maelstrom of emails on other multi-million-pound projects.

All the document demonstrates is Government transparency is as seaworthy as hulls 801 and 802.

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