Final evidence session of ferries inquiry to take place

Fiona Hyslop will appear before the inquiry, being conducted by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

Final evidence session of ferries inquiry to take place Getty Images
Ferguson Marine: Derek Mackay pictured at the shipyard.

An inquiry into a ferry project hit with delays and overspends will take its final evidence session on Wednesday.

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop will appear before the inquiry, being conducted by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, alongside islands minister Paul Wheelhouse.

In 2019, Hyslop’s predecessor Derek Mackay told MSPs that the project to build two vessels for CalMac, known as 801 and 802, would be delayed by several years.

The ferries were initially due to be in service by 2018, but “mismanagement”, as Mackay said, caused multi-year delays and an increase of £110.3m to the initial £97m contract.

After collapsing into administration in August last year, the shipyard building the ferries, Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, was saved by the Scottish Government and brought into public ownership.

However on Tuesday, Hyslop told the Scottish Parliament that the coronavirus pandemic had caused a further six-month delay to each craft, with 801 due to be delivered no earlier than April 2022 and 802 set to complete after December 2022.

The Covid-19 lockdown also forced the yard to close for six months, costing an additional £3.3m, the economy secretary said.

In an earlier session, independent consultant Roy Pedersen said three possible reasons come to mind when asked about the awarding of the contract to Ferguson Marine.

“One is incompetence, another is vested interest and the final one is corruption,” he said.

Scottish Government officials rejected the claim.

Former Ferguson Marine director Jim McColl, an economic adviser to the First Minister, also called for a judge-led public inquiry to be held into the matter.

During the final evidence session, which will also take evidence from the Scottish Government-appointed turnaround director Tim Hair and a number of senior officials, committee members are expected to question decisions made by ministers and loans given to Ferguson Marine by the Scottish Government.