Derek Mackay to appear before MSPs over delayed Calmac ferries

It will be the first time the former finance secretary has appeared at Holyrood since he resigned in 2020.

Derek Mackay to appear before Scottish Parliament over role in ferries fiasco Getty Images

Derek Mackay is to face MSPs at the Scottish Parliament over his role in the ferries fiasco that saw vessels significantly delayed and overbudget.

The former transport minister will appear at Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee on Thursday.

Former chief executive for Transport Scotland David Middleton will also appear at the committee.

Mackay served as transport minister from November 2014 and May 2016, a period in which the decision to award a contract for two ferries to Ferguson Marine was made.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it was Mackay who signed off on the ultimately disastrous deal.

However, she insisted that the “buck stops with me” after a scathing report by Audit Scotland which set out a “multitude of failings” over the delivery of the vessels.

In a written submission to the committee in June, Mackay said that he believed the risks that were identified in awarding the contract had been “resolved” at the time.

“The recommendation in the submission was ‘to proceed to contract award’,” Mackay told MSPs.

“The submission had followed the necessary process, procurement assessment and milestone stages, therefore I had confidence in the recommendation, but appreciated that risks had been identified and understood to be resolved.

“Ongoing CMAL concerns in the event of failure were about the risks ‘to the company’ ie CMAL, and therefore that Scottish Government should give further reassurance on risk transfer to CMAL, which is covered in detail in the submission.

“Risk analysis would be expected in such a submission, with mitigations also presented.”

Mackay continued: “There was a high level of confidence in the yard, which had successfully completed other vessels for the Calmac fleet.

“There was also an expectation that there would be sufficient monitoring and oversight.

“The committee will also note that CMAL would have robustly defended a legal challenge to an award.”

His appearance at the committee on Thursday will mark the first time that Mackay has appeared at Holyrood since he was forced to resign over hundreds of messages sent to a 16-year-old boy.

The Scottish Sun reported Mackay befriended the teenager on Facebook and Instagram and sent him 270 messages.

The Renfrewshire South and West MSP was suspended from the SNP pending further investigation but continued to sit as an independent until the Holyrood election last year.

Announcing his resignation on budget day in 2020, Mackay admitted he had “behaved foolishly” and apologised “unreservedly” to the individual involved and his family.

Police Scotland carried out an investigation into the messages Mackay sent to the teenager and concluded no crime was committed.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson accused SNP ministers “at every level” of the Government of being “embroiled” in the ferries scandal.

“The Ferguson Marine fiasco has already cost the public purse a quarter of a billion pounds with no ferries yet to show for it – and frustrated taxpayers and island residents are sick to death of the SNP passing the buck,” he said.

“Throughout this entire scandal, the SNP’s favourite strategy has been to try and pin all the blame on former-MSP, Derek Mackay, despite emails from their own civil servants telling a different story.

“So it’s welcome that the former transport minister will now face parliamentary scrutiny, to hopefully shed some more light on this murky saga.

“However, this appalling scandal goes far beyond just one individual. Ministers at every level of this SNP Government are embroiled in this and only a full public inquiry will get to the heart of what actually happened.”

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