Ferries fiasco: Threat of legal action connected to contract award revealed by Tories

Douglas Ross has revealed SNP ministers were warned of “significant procurement risks” and the potential of a legal challenge when awarding the ferries contract to Ferguson Marine.

The Scottish Conservative leader revealed that redacted sections of a document could be read through the use of copy and paste, announcing the details in front of MSPs at First Minister’s Questions.

The document states that the absence of a full refund guarantee – the central criticism of the contract by Audit Scotland – could represent a “considerable departure” from the original terms of the contract.

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It adds that it may “raise significant procurement risks” and warned a “successful legal challenge could be high” and potentially see the contract declared “ineffective”.

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The document added: “The impact of a successful legal challenge could be high – in the worst case the contract could be declared ineffective – and a challenge could be brought at any time as the contract terms are not being made public.

“The risk of a challenge materialising depends on the likelihood of any of the 5 other shipyards receiving confidential information and on the appetite of those competitors for a challenge.”

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Defending the decision, Nicola Sturgeon said that governments receive legal advice regularly about projects and contracts and labelled Mr Ross “desperate”.

The SNP leader also said that the newly discovered “missing” email show that Derek Mackay was the minister who signed off the contract, not John Swinney.

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Nicola Sturgeon is under pressure to answer further questions about the ferries scandal.

The First Minister said that Mr Swinney’s involvement in the sign-off centred on him being briefed on the decision to award the contract to Ferguson Marine, not as a final rubber stamp.

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Audit Scotland said on Wednesday evening that they were still concerned that there was not sufficient documentary evidence around why ministers accepted the risks associated with the changed contract.

More to follow.

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