'Public money squandered on ferries on reckless and foolish scale'

Jim McColl submitted written evidence to MSPs at Holyrood.

‘Public money squandered on ferries on reckless and foolish scale’ STV News

Taxpayers’ money was “squandered on a reckless and foolish scale” in the nationalisation of Ferguson Marine, Jim McColl has claimed.

The billionaire has been locked in a war of words with the Scottish Government as MSPs probe the decision to take the troubled shipyard into public hands in 2019.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence at Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee earlier this month.

She told MSPs that she “categorically” rejected the suggestion that there was anything “untoward” in the procurement process for the vessels.

The SNP leader also stated her belief that the decision taken was a “reasonable” one, given what was known at the time.

In written evidence submitted to the committee, McColl suggested that the Scottish Government could have saved “at least” £200m if it had taken legal advice in the procurement process.

“It does not appear that the Government ‘rigorously assessed’ the proposal,” McColl wrote.

“There is one day between my appeal to reassess the proposal and this response.

“Giving senior counsel’s unequivocal opinion that the offer was legal, I would have expected the Government to take their own QC’s opinion. There is no evidence that they did.

“If the Government had received an independent option confirming it was legal and accepted the proposal it would have saved at least £200m of taxpayers’ money.”

McColl criticised the decision by ministers to reject a proposal from Transport Scotland a year prior to the nationalisation of the yard.

He said: “The Scottish Government’s decision to reject Transport Scotland’s proposal in early April 2018, and repeated requests from FMEL, for an expert determination process, unthinkingly defending CMAL, has resulted in public money being squandered on a reckless and foolish scale.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister stands by the evidence and the follow-up information requested by the committee will be provided in due course.

“The Scottish Government’s priorities have always been the completion of the two ferries, securing a future for the yard and its workforce, and supporting our island communities that rely on this type of vessel on a daily basis.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said the evidence submitted by McColl underlines the need for there to be a full independent public inquiry into the ferries scandal.

“Jim McColl’s claims that the SNP government wasted £200m and misled parliament about whether there was a fixed price contract are damning indictments of a government with its eye off the ball,” he said.

“It’s now up to the SNP to explain why they did not think an independent expert opinion was worth exploring.

“We already knew SNP mismanagement has needlessly cost the public hundreds of millions with no delivery, but these staggering revelations make it clear just now negligent they have been.

“Mr McColl says that the First Minister can have been in no doubt about the urgency of the situation when he approached her. We should immediately see the minutes of that meeting to clear up this murky business.

“This also underlines yet again the need for a full independent public inquiry into the ferries scandal so that betrayed island communities and Scottish taxpayers get the answers they deserve.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code