First minister has questions to answer on £100 million ferry contract blunder

Jim McColl, Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Rumbles (standing).

The former director of Ferguson Marine has told MSPs that the partly built ferries for the Western Isles would be sailing already if the company had been dealing with Calmac rather than CMAL, the government agency which placed the order.

Former Dumbarton businessman Jim McColl was giving evidence to Holyrood’s rural economy committee, which is investigating the failure of the yard to complete the ferries on time and on budget.

He said claims the project was badly managed were grossly misleading and that CMAL had refused mediation.

The industrialist also called for a judge-led public inquiry, accusing CMAL of being “the elephant in the room”.

Former FMEL boss Gerry Marshall said the time frame for firms to work on the design of two Calmac Ferries, that have gone over budget and behind schedule, was too little.

The two CalMac ferries are £100m over budget and likely to be three years overdue.

Earlier a maritime procurement expert Luke van Beek said the relationship between Fergusons shipyard and the government agency CMAL was adversarial.

Speaking after the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee took evidence from  Jim McColl, Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles MSP said: 

“Jim McColl’s evidence to the Committee was astonishing.

“There was a problem with this contract right from the outset. The First Minister undermined it by being more interested in PR gloss than setting the project out on the right footing.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money is the cost of Scottish Government incompetence.

“This project is running years behind schedule, communities aren’t getting the boats they were promised and there are now serious questions about whether they ever will.”

Mr McColl used to operate the Ideal Kitchens factory in Broadmeadow Industrial Estate, Dumbarton.

He later became an industrialist at Clyde Blowers and was connected with Rangers FC before being named as one of Scotland’s richest businessmen.

Oban 2 Calmac ferries pass close together in Oban Bay.

Calmac ferries operating in Oban Bay in Argyll and Bute. Picture by Bill Heaney

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