By Lucy Ashton
A “value for money” study on the cost of completing two over budget CalMac ferries at Ferguson’s Port Glasgow nationalised shipyard cost the taxpayer £620,000, it has emerged.
The review said it would be cheaper to scrap one of the ships still being built across the Clyde at Ferguson Marine and place a new order elsewhere.
But the government said continuing the build of Hull 802 was the fastest way of securing a new ship.
The Scottish Conservatives have accused ministers of wasting public funds.
The two ships, which were supposed to cost £97 million, are currently more than £200 million over budget and due to be delivered about six years late.
The Scottish government conducted a “due diligence” exercise after the new boss of the Port Glasgow shipyard said an an extra £72 million was needed to complete Glen Sannox and Hull 802.
The review concluded there was a value for money case for finishing the first vessel Glen Sannox but not for Hull 802.
However, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray told MSPs the funding would continue because scrapping the second ship would lead to further delays in securing a new vessel.
He also factored in “wider” issues such as the impact of cancelling the order on the Ferguson shipyard and the economy.
According to an answer from Mr Gray this week to a written parliamentary question from Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, the value for money study – which involved civil servants and outside consultants – cost about £620,000.
Mr Halcro Johnston, his party’s tourism and enterprise spokesman, said the government continued to “haemorrhage” money in relation to the ferries “on an industrial scale”.
“On balance, ploughing on at Ferguson was probably the least worst option – as the alternative was even longer delays,” he added.
“But for an eye-watering £620k to have been spent on a so-called value for money report establishing it is not cost effective is the latest kick in the teeth to taxpayers and betrayed islanders in a never-ending scandal.”
Neil Gray has faced calls to release detailed figures on the cost of completing the ships contained in the due diligence review.
He said: “Our island communities deserve to be supported by two new, energy efficient vessels with the capacity and reliability required to support vibrant island economies.
“In setting out my decision to issue a written authority last month to enable work on vessel 802 to continue, there was clear, cross-party acknowledgement that this was the appropriate course of action – not least as it presents the fastest possible route to getting vital new lifeline services into service.”
He added that the value for money assessment did not take into account “the impact added delays would have on our island communities, nor the broader social and economic benefits of continuing the vessel’s build at Ferguson Marine”.
The order for the ferries was awarded by the Scottish government-owned ferries procurement agency CMAL in 2015, a year after the Ferguson yard was rescued from administration by Jim McColl, pictured left, who once operated a kitchen business on the Broadmeadow Estate in Dumbarton.
CMAL blames “catastrophic contractor failure” by Mr McColl’s company FMEL for the problems, while Mr McColl insists an inadequate concept design and subsequent interference by CMAL lie at the root of the delays and cost overruns.
The yard was nationalised in 2019 but costs continued to spiral under “turnaround director” Tim Hair, who was employed on a daily rate of more than £2,500. David Tydeman took over as chief executive in February last year after Mr Hair’s departure.
Glen Sannox is currently expected to be delivered by the end of this year, with Hull 802 following on in late 2024.
Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat communities spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP., pictured right, has today criticised the Scottish Government for causing “mayhem” for islanders after new research by his party found that there were just 31 days over 15 months when CalMac ferries ran to their scheduled timetable.
A Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request found that between 1 January 2022 and 31 March 2023:
- There were just 31 days where all timetabled CalMac sailings “performed to schedule.”
- Ferries were cancelled (performed below schedule) on 217 days out of 455.
- More and more ferries are being cancelled for technical reasons, causing the loss of 2,256 sailings across the 15-month period.
Mr Rennie said: “Communities have been left adrift by a government that makes getting from A to B mission impossible.
“Ministers should be compensating islanders for the mayhem they have caused, but they are point-blank refusing. Instead, the SNP and Greens sit idle while the government-owned Fergusons shipyard shell out huge bonuses to bosses.
“Islanders losing business, missing events and hospital appointments are being let down yet again by a nationalist government that is totally out of touch and unwilling to stand up for these communities.”