Sturgeon blasted for £240m ferry debacle as ‘relentless incompetence’ exposes failings

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Audit Scotland’s report said the vessels meant to serve the Clyde and Hebrides will now cost £240 million, two and a half times the original price. Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said the SNP had “no clear understanding” of how to deliver the ferries that were now four years late.

He said: “The failure to deliver these two ferries, on time and on budget, exposes a multitude of failings. 

“A lack of transparent decision-making, a lack of project oversight and no clear understanding of what significant sums of public money have achieved. 

“And, crucially, communities still don’t have the lifeline ferries they were promised years ago.” 

The report said it was unclear why Ferguson Marine in Glasgow was awarded the contract in 2015 despite the lack of a refund guarantee.

It added the Government’s turnaround director identified a number of “significant operational failures” which still need to be solved. 

In February, MSPs were told that the vessels known simply as 801 and 802 needed additional work as the cables that had been fitted weren’t long enough. 

The expected launch date of the first ferry has been pushed back several times, with Ferguson Marine saying the cable issue will delay the launch beyond the summer of 2022.

Opposition parties at Holyrood have slammed the SNP for the debacle. 

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie described it as “seven years of ferry failures” and an example of the “failed SNP industrial intervention policy”.

He said: “This report places the blame for seven years of ferry failures squarely in the hands of SNP ministers. 

“Island communities are being left all at sea by the failure to deliver new vessels. Their economies are suffering. 

“Meanwhile, the taxpayer is shelling out four times as much as originally expected to get these vessels built. 

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“This is yet another example of the failed SNP industrial intervention policy.” 

However in response to the report, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes argued the ferries had been delayed by the decision to take Ferguson Marine into public ownership. 

She said: “Not only did our efforts save the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde from closure, we directly rescued more than 300 jobs and ensured that the two vessels – which are vital for our island communities – will be delivered. 

“There is no doubt that getting the vessels completed has been extremely challenging but let me be absolutely clear, these vessels must be delivered as soon as possible. 

“There can be no ifs or buts when it comes to lifeline services for our island communities. 

“I have made that expectation absolutely clear to the Ferguson Marine leadership and board, and we will continue to work closely with the yard to ensure the vessels enter service as soon as possible. 

“The procurement process for vessels 801 and 802 was undertaken thoroughly, in good faith and following appropriate due diligence, and suggestions to the contrary are wrong.”

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