‘Wasted £25m’ claim over forced Ferguson Marine nationalisation ‘totally incorrect’ – Kate Forbes

A claim the Scottish Government “wasted” £25 million in forcing the nationalisation of the struggling Ferguson Marine shipyard was rubbished as “totally incorrect” by finance secretary Kate Forbes.

It follows an allegation in The Herald on Sunday by former yard owner Jim McColl, who said ministers had cost taxpayers that sum by taking over the business after it went into administration in 2019.

The yard has been at the centre of controversy over its late-running and vastly over budget contract, with Scottish Government-owned vessels owner Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal) to build two ferries for west coast operator CalMac.

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It has led to the Glen Sannox and her as-yet unnamed sister vessel going up to £100m over their £97m budget, while they are expected to be completed more than three years late.

Glen Sannox is now not expected to be completed until 2022 - three years late. Picture: John Devlin
Glen Sannox is now not expected to be completed until 2022 - three years late. Picture: John Devlin

Labour public finance spokesperson Paul Sweeney claimed to MSPs that when Fergusons went into administration, ministers had had “a contractual right to claim a £25m cash refund guarantee in the form of an insurance bond from specialist marine insurers HCC International, which would have seen the insurance company take control of the shipyard”.

He said: “Instead, Scottish ministers chose to forfeit that £25m and buy the shipyard outright at a further cost of £7.5m.

"If this £32m forced acquisition was not an alleged misuse of public funds, an attempt to cover up for the failures of CMal [Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited] and ministers that caused the collapse of the shipyard as asserted by the previous management of Ferguson Marine, will the [Scottish] Government agree to release all correspondence between the Government HCC and CMal?

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Jim McColl owned Ferguson Marine before it went into administration and was taken over by the Scottish Government in 2019. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS Group

However, Ms Forbes accused Mr Sweeney of “effectively re-writing history” in his claims.

She said: “When it comes to the £25m, it is totally incorrect to assert, as was in some media reporting, that £25m has been lost to the public purse.

"As is widely known, agreement was reached with HCCI [HCC International Insurance Company] to release from a performance bond that they had provided for Fergusons.”

Ms Forbes said ministers had “pro-actively published extensive information” for a Holyrood committee inquiry into the ferries contract.

The finance secretary said: “Our intention is to ensure the vessels are completed, the workforce is saved and the yard has a viable future.”

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