Half of Scots say opinion of SNP government has dropped due to ferries scandal

The public is turning against the Scottish Government due to the ongoing ferries fiasco, a new poll suggests.

Almost half of Scots, including a significant minority of SNP voters, said they “feel worse” about Nicola Sturgeon’s government due to the scandal.

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The poll, conducted by Savanta ComRes for Scotland on Sunday, interviewed 1,010 adults aged 16 or over online between April 26 and May 3.

The First Minister was branded a liar – a claim she denies – by former Ferguson Marine shipyard owner Jim McColl last week over her claims the contract for two ferries saved the shipyard from closure and saved hundreds of jobs.

Ministers awarded the contract for two new ferries for the Clyde and the Hebrides to Ferguson Marine in 2015, but the project has been scandal-hit and beset by delays.

The delivery of the Glen Sannox and as yet unnamed hull 802 is at least five years late and around £150 million over-budget.

The yard was also nationalised after it fell into administration in 2019.

The ferries fiasco has cut through to voters, polling suggests.

Asked whether they were aware or not of the ongoing scandal, 67 per cent of voters said they were aware of it, with 29 per cent stating they were “very aware” and 37 per cent stating they were “somewhat aware”.

In total, 48 per cent of voters said the story had made them feel “worse” about the Scottish Government, with six per cent stating it had made them feel “better” about the government.

A further 40 per cent said the story had made no difference to their opinion of the government.

Those most likely to say the ferries scandal had made them feel worse about the government were Conservative voters. However, worryingly for the SNP, 30 per cent of their own backers agreed.

The scandal has also prompted a very public feud between Mr McColl and the Scottish Government over who is to blame for the delays. The government has blamed the yard, while the tycoon has blamed ferry infrastructure body CMAL and the government.

Central to the disagreement is the lack of a full builder’s refund guarantee in the original contract.

This clause would have allowed the shipyard to take on the bulk of the financial risk associated with the contract if the project hit the rocks.

Instead, the government agreed to a 25 per cent refund guarantee, resulting in the overspend hitting the taxpayer .

Ministers claimed Ferguson Marine only indicated they could not provide a full refund guarantee until after being named as preferred bidder, but Mr McColl claims his company was open about the fact it could not provide the guarantee from the very start of the process.

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said the SNP had “trashed their reputation”.

He said: “They have annoyed taxpayers, islanders and shipbuilders all at the same time.

"It is little wonder so many people have cast their judgement on the competence of the SNP.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesperson added: “The Scottish public clearly recognise the SNP’s gross incompetence is to blame for the ferries fiasco.

“The secrecy and evasion they have displayed in refusing to explain the illogical decision to award the contract to Ferguson Marine, against expert advice, has not gone unnoticed.

"That’s why it’s essential we have an independent public inquiry to get to the bottom of a scandal which has resulted in Scotland’s island communities being betrayed and taxpayers picking up an enormous tab.”

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