POLITICS: The ferry story the SNP have failed to scupper

No ferries, no fuel tanks: liquid gas bunkers meant to have been ready this year

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay inside Ferguson shipyard nationalised by Scottish government.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay inside the shipyard nationalised by the SNP.

The £5 million contract for the bunkering facilities at Ardrossan and Uig was signed off more than two years ago and they were meant to be ready this year but ground has not been broken at either port.

State-owned Ferguson Marine is building the UK’s first dual fuel ferries which can run on diesel and more environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The Glen Sannox which is still not completed and at least £150 million over budget.

The two delayed ferries – the Glen Sannox, which is due to serve Arran, and the as yet unnamed Hull 802, which will serve Skye, Harris and North Uist – are £150m over budget and won’t be ready until next year.

Last month, spending watchdog Audit Scotland revealed the contract for the two ferries was awarded without any financial safeguards and that officials did not understand the scale of the work involved.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she took ultimate responsibility for the failure to deliver the ferries on time and at cost while suggesting disgraced former finance secretary Derek Mackay signed off the contracts against expert advice. Last week Mackay vowed to give his version of events to MSPs.

When the 150 cubic metre tanks were announced in 2020, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), the Scottish Government quango that owns ferry infrastructure, said it would provide the source of LNG fuelling for the ferries.

However, CMAL confirmed yesterday work had not begun and there was no timescale for completion. Experts now doubt if the facilities will ever be built.

Meanwhile, writes Bill Heaney,  Scottish Liberal Democrats will use their party business in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon to force a vote on the principle that if two long delayed ferries are not completed on schedule, then the Scottish Government minister responsible should resign.

The contract to build the ferries, which are intended to serve the Clyde and Hebrides, was awarded in 2015 with the vessels due to enter service in 2018. However, after the latest round of cost and time overruns It is expected the first will launch between March and May next year, while the second will be delivered between October and December 2023.

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said:  “Ministers have ducked and dived, desperate to shirk responsibility for too long.

“These delays have left islanders and communities without reliable services, critical to island life. In a just world, past ministers who left island communities without lifeline services and oversaw hundreds of millions in cost over-runs would hand in their resignation.

“There are no guarantees that these colossal failures will not simply be allowed to repeat themselves. That’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that if these boats are not finished on time, the responsible minister should resign. That is the principle that we are asking parliament to back.”

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