Cheaper to build new ferry than complete current one, minister admits

The Ferguson Marine-built ferry has been deemed 'poor value for money', a Scottish minister said.

The second ferry being built at the Ferguson Marine shipyard is so over budget it would be cheaper to build a brand new vessel, the Scottish Government has revealed.

Wellbeing economy, fair work and energy secretary Neil Gray announced on Tuesday that the unnamed 802 ship has now been deemed “poor value for money” after a due diligence assessment was carried out.

But he said that while it would be cheaper to build a brand new ferry it would not be ready until at least 2027.

The 801 Glen Sannox and the currently unnamed hull 802 have seen multiple delays and are now three times over their original budget.

Audit Scotland previously warned the total cost of the ferries remains unclear.

In an update to parliament, Gray described the soaring price of the ships as “extremely disappointing” but said continuing with the Government-owned yard is worth it to protect jobs and build the ferries without further delay.

Neil Gray told Holyrood the second vessel being built by Ferguson Marine has been deemed 'poor value for money'.STV News

He told MSPs: “Our island communities deserve to be supported by two new, energy-efficient vessels with the capacity and reliability required to support vibrant island economies.

“While I accept the pure value for money assessment on vessel 802 is challenging, this narrow calculation does not take into account the added delays, the wider benefits of continuing the vessel’s build at Ferguson Marine or the full cost of not doing so.

“If written authority to complete vessel 802 at Ferguson’s was not provided, we could be looking at a delay in deploying a new vessel to May 2027 at the earliest – four years from now and two-and-a-half years after 802 is due to be delivered.”

Gray said such a delay would not be acceptable to Scotland’s island community.

He also said the due diligence assessment undertaken “cannot take into account the impact of withholding investment on the Inverclyde and wider Scottish economies”.

He continued: “While the impact on our island communities and on our economy are not covered by the value for money assessment, they have guided the decisions I have taken, which recognise the broader social and economic benefits of completing both ferries and ensuring the yard continues to have a strong platform upon which to progress and prosper.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused the Scottish Government of “betraying” islanders and embarrassing the workers of the Port Glasgow yard.

He said: “Doesn’t this show utter contempt for this Parliament and for the taxpayer and for the workers and the islanders that the transport minister left in the middle of this statement and didn’t even have the courtesy to listen to the questions being answered?  

“But who cares? In for a penny, in for a million pounds.  

“We’ve had eight years of this utter fiasco in which the government has soaked the taxpayer, has betrayed the islanders and has utterly humiliated the workers.  

“Yet, we’ve had six ministers in that time. Not a single one of them, including the current First Minister, has lost their job for this fiasco.  

“Will anyone ever face the music for this disaster?”

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “What an utter, abject humiliation for the cabinet secretary to have to admit to parliament and the nation that – years down the line – it would be cheaper to start from scratch, than complete vessel 802.

“Of course, that can’t and won’t happen – because our island communities have already been kept waiting years too long, and any further delays to the delivery of the jinxed Ferguson Marine vessels would heap betrayal upon betrayal.

“But it’s a shameful, scarcely-believable indictment of SNP mismanagement that completing 802 at Ferguson does not represent value for money.

“The building of ferries 801 and 802 is a national scandal that continues to snowball before our eyes.

“The very least islanders – and Scottish taxpayers – deserve is an admission from the cabinet secretary of what the final bill for 801 will be, and, in the case of 802, how much cheaper it would be to buy a new ferry elsewhere, compared to finishing the one languishing in Port Glasgow.”

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