Opposition calls for ex-minister to answer questions on ferry deal

Derek Mackay awarded the contract to Ferguson Marine despite concerns being raised in 2015. 

Calls for Derek Mackay to answer questions on delayed CalMac ferry deal Getty Images

Opposition parties have called on the First Minister and former finance secretary Derek Mackay to face questions over their “major mismanagement” of a ferry contract.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all called for Mackay, who quit the Scottish Government in disgrace more than two years ago, to give evidence in front of MSPs over his decision to award a contract for two lifeline ferries to the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

Mackay, who was previously transport minister, awarded the contract to the Clyde yard despite concerns being raised in 2015. 

The two CalMac vessels were due to be completed in 2018 however an Audit Scotland report found the ferries will not enter service until at least 2023.

The delayed project is now estimated to have cost £240m, which is two-and-a-half times the original price tag. 

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Sturgeon was clear that while Mackay signed off the deal, that “the buck stops with her”.

Derek Mackay resigned from the Scottish Government more than two years ago after it emerged he sent inappropriate social media messages to a schoolboy.

Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said both the First Minister and Mackay need to come before the Public Audit Committee to “explain their roles in this sorry affair”.

Writing to committee convener, Richard Leonard, Bibby said: “I believe it is imperative now that Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay are called to give evidence at the Public Audit Committee and be held to account for the decisions the Government made and their major mismanagement of public funds.”

The Scottish Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have echoed Bibby’s calls for Mackay to be brought back to give evidence over the delayed project. 

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, Graham Simpson, said: “It’s high time that Derek Mackay came to Parliament and explained his key role in the ferry fiasco after more than two years of silence.

“Astonishing amounts of public money have been squandered by the SNP on this, and Scotland’s island communities deserve an explanation for the interminable delay in the completion of these two lifeline ferries.”

However, Simpson was also clear that “the First Minister and the rest of her cabinet at the time can’t escape accountability either” as he said there needed to be a full, independent public inquiry into “this ever-growing scandal”.

Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat economy spokesman, said: “If we are to take the First Minister at her word, it was Derek Mackay and Derek Mackay alone who signed off on deals which are set to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions more than originally scheduled.

“It is awfully convenient for Nicola Sturgeon that the latest scandal threatening to beset her government can be neatly blamed on someone who has since departed politics.

“Derek Mackay should appear before Parliament to give his side of the story and confirm whether it is true that the First Minister and the rest of her cabinet had no input into the decision to take over Ferguson Marine.

“Island communities have been let down and deserve answers.”

Leonard said members of Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee would consider the Audit Scotland report on the matter at their meeting on April 21.

He added: “Following this session, we will consider the next steps in our scrutiny of the report.”

Meanwhile, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Invites to parliamentary committees are entirely a matter for individual committees – not for the Government.”

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