Audit Scotland released a damning report last week which concluded that it could not determine why the contract did not carry the requirement of full repayment guarantee in the event of the yard going bust or failing to complete the construction of the vessels on time. The project is currently four years overdue with no end date in sight and “the cost for the two ships has ballooned from a fixed price of £97m to £240m”, according to former MSP Brian Monteith.
Mr Monteith wrote for The Scotsman stating he could not “recall a report laid before Parliament by the Auditor General that was so damning of Government ministers as that report on the failure of the Scottish Government to procure two ferries”.
Billionaire Jim McColl owns Ferguson yard which was given the contract to build the CalMac ferries and he revealed to The Sunday Times the political motives behind the rushed deal.
He said: “The audit report has revealed we were given the contract for political purposes. Everything was about the optics and timing the announcements for political gain.”
A senior source from the SNP also spoke to the Sunday newspaper saying: “We were all talking about it at the time. It was all done and dusted to give a big conference headline as the springboard for the 2016 elections, Nicola’s first Holyrood election as leader.”
Nicola Sturgeon has been called on by opposition MSPs to provide evidence to a Holyrood committee over how the decision to award the contract which ignored experts was made.
Speaking to Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland Political editor, the First Minister appeared rather flustered and said: “I am responsible for all of the decisions that the government takes.
“It would have been a decision that was taken, like all decisions, by ministers responsible, but I am ultimately responsible for all of the decisions.”
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Mr Campbell asked the First Minister, “Did you say ‘go ahead?’” to which she responded: “I didn’t say don’t go ahead. That is not to say I was the minister taking the actual decision, but I am responsible for all of the decisions.
“I’m not going to stand here and try to pass the buck to anybody else, the buck for all decisions the Scottish government takes rests with me and that is the position on this issue and is the position on all issues.”
Speaking on LBC Radio on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon declared that she would “answer all and any questions” and flatly denied that the decision was driven for political gains.
She said: “The procurement of the ferries – the awarding of that contract – was done in line with normal procurement processes with proper due diligence.”
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Mr Monteith stated that if the First Minister denies guilt over the “ferry fiasco” she will “shame Scotland”.
He added that the political decision means “It is the politicians who therefore must pay a political price.”
As Ms Sturgeon has admitted that the buck stops with herself, the former MSP stated: “Irrespective of who signed-off what, there must be consequences for her in that role. She owns the contract. She took the glory for it. She must take the fall for the failure.”