Scottish Government 'should be eating humble pie" over Ferguson ferries failure

The Scottish Government’s response to the outcome of an inquiry into the procurement of two ferries has been criticised.

Ferguson Marine's yard at Port Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
Ferguson Marine's yard at Port Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

The inquiry was launched by the rural economy and connectivity committee in 2019 after it emerged that hulls 801 and 802, being built at the Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) shipyard in Port Glasgow, would be delivered late and at more than double their initial cost.

A report by the committee said there had been a “catastrophic failure” in the procurement process, but islands minister Paul Wheelhouse rejected the assertion.

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In a letter to the committee, Mr Wheelhouse said there were conclusions in the report with which the Scottish Government did not agree, adding “contractor failure has been a very significant factor in the difficulties we have seen arise”.

In a debate in Holyrood on Tuesday, committee convener Edward Mountain said: “The Scottish Government’s disdainful response to the committee’s critical conclusion is, frankly, surprising.

“Contrary to the minister’s assertion that the committee did not highlight the poor performance by the shipyard’s former management as a contributory factor to the problems of this project – we did.

“It is clear, however, that the procurement process that the minister tries to defend was not fit for purpose.”

In response to Mr Mountain, the minister said: “As set out in my response, there are some conclusions in the report with which we do not agree, and some instances where we believe the conclusion or recommendation made does not reflect the breadth of evidence presented to the inquiry.

“However – and I stress this for the convener’s benefit and for other members of the committee – we do recognise that in relation to the two ferries, and the delay in their delivery, the outcome has been particularly impactful on communities awaiting the delivery of ferries that have yet to be completed and clearly the cost outturn and delays are far from what was anticipated or desired at the point of contract award to FMEL.

“We accept that lessons have to be learned and I want to assure members they are being learned.”

Tory MSP Graham Simpson, who also sits on the committee, said the minster should be eating “humble pie” over the scandal.

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