By Bill Heaney
First Minister Humza Yousaf was made to walk the plank today over the horrendous ever escalating cost of the two island ferries being built across the Clyde at Port Glasgow.
Nicola Sturgeon’s beleaguered successor repeatedly refused to say what the final bill will be for the two vessels at the centre of the SNP’s ferries scandal, the hospital pass bequeathed to Mr Yousaf when she jumped ship earlier this month.
At FMQs, Douglas Ross, left, challenged Humza Yousaf over comments today from Scotland’s Auditor General Stephen Boyle to the parliament’s Public Audit Committee that it would be “folly” to suggest the taxpayer tab will not go above the current £300 million estimate.
The Scottish Conservative leader – who also raised the bonuses paid to Ferguson Marine executives – insisted that Humza Yousaf, as a former transport minister, was at the heart of the scandal, and so could not be trusted to fix it.
The SNP leader refused to put a figure on the final bill for vessels 801 and 802, which are already six years late and more than three times over budget, claiming “due diligence” was still being carried out on that today.
Douglas Ross, who gave Humza Yousaf a serious keel-hauling, said: “Scotland’s Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, said today it would be folly to suggest the SNP’s £300 million estimate for the cost to build the two Ferguson Marine ferries is a reliable figure.
“Yet the First Minister continues to defend the estimates and can’t bring himself to agree with the Auditor General.
“Only a party that bought a camper-van for £100,000 could think paying hundreds of millions for two massively delayed ferries is a good deal.
“We all know from the scandal engulfing their party, that the SNP really struggle with finances – but this is ridiculous.
“Humza Yousaf needs to stop the secrecy, be honest for a change, and tell us how much higher the real cost to taxpayers for these ferries is going to be.
“The Auditor General also revealed that the bonus system for highly-paid executives at Ferguson Marine is still in place.
“The two ferries are not fit to sail, the costs keep spiralling out of control, and islanders are left without vital lifeline services, so what on earth could these bonuses possibly be for?
“On every front, the SNP is engulfed in scandal, secrecy and a shameful waste of money.
“And the problem for the First Minister is that he has been personally involved in the ferry scandal from the start.
Disgraced Derek Mackay, beleaguered Humza Yousaf and departed Nicola Sturgeon.
“When this all began at the 2015 SNP conference, Humza Yousaf was there beaming beside the disgraced Derek Mackay; he was there in 2016 behind Nicola Sturgeon, hoping that he too could one day stand next to a ferry with painted-on windows.
“He was the transport minister tasked with inspecting the yard for years.
“And we’ve found a picture of him from one of his photo ops at the yard. He said that he was there to mark the halfway point of the build.
“There’s just one problem. This picture is from December 2016 – more than six years ago. That wasn’t the halfway point, we were barely at the start of this sorry saga.
“How is the First Minister, who got us into this mess, going to fix it?”