Minister says deal was 'confidential'
Mackay accused of dodging answers on billionaire loan
Derek Mackay: ‘commercial confidentiality’
Finance secretary Derek Mackay has been accused of failing to explain why the Scottish Government gave a £45 million loan to Ferguson Marine, owned by SNP supporting billionaire Jim McColl..
Mr Greene demanded Mr Mackay provide clarity over the terms of the loan, when it is expected to be repaid and provide answers on cost overruns of the existing Calmac ferry contracts.
The Scottish Conservatives say there are question marks over who will pay for any additional costs incurred on the delivery of the two new Calmac ferries which Ferguson Marine is contracted to build.
Mr Greene accused Mr Mackay of contradicting the Scottish Government’s previous position on purpose of the loans.
Mr Mackay stated that the loan could be used for the completion of the ferries in development. He insisted that he was limited in what he could say because of “commercial confidentiality” and asked why the Scottish Conservatives were challenging the government for supporting Scottish shipbuilding.
Speaking afterwards Mr Greene said: “Instead of addressing serious concerns over the Scottish Government’s handling of public funds, Derek Mackay has muddied the waters even further.
“Today he totally failed to address any of the major questions that hang over this loan and the new ferries being built. Hiding behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ Mr Mackay was evasive in his responses to specific questions.
“We still have no idea about the timescale of the loan, the conditions attached to it, how the money has been spent and whether the taxpayer will ever see any return. To make matters worse, he then contradicted himself on what the money was to be used for.
“Whether it was for business diversification or plug a hole in the current ferry contracts, the public have a right to know and the government needs to be clear and transparent about such large sums of money.
“When asked who will be liable for any cost overruns on the troubled new ferries, no answer was given. We are none the wiser after today’s performance and further demonstrates that this is a government clouded in secrecy, poor governance and a distinct lack of transparency.”
Transcript of comments in parliament
This is not about whether the Government should or should not support the marine industry; this is about accountability, transparency from the Government and good governance. I have heard about none of that today from the cabinet secretary.
The project is already delayed by at least a year and is already tens of millions of pounds over budget. There is also talk of a dispute between the yard owners, the Government and CMAL over project management and where the liability for those financial overruns lies. Delays cost money. Will the cabinet secretary tell us—in simple terms—who will pick up the tab for the dispute? Is it Ferguson Marine or the Scottish taxpayer?
Let me be clear about the Government’s investment in ferries. Since 2007, we have invested more than £1 billion in ferry services. We have deployed new ferries to the network, which has enhanced the CalMac fleet.
Do the Conservatives not even welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is supporting Scottish shipbuilding? What is so wrong with that position? We are delivering 400 jobs at Ferguson Marine, and there are new apprenticeships, too. Is that not to be welcomed by the Conservatives and others in the chamber?
Of course the delays are not welcome; they are unfortunate. However, the Government is committed to this investment for new vessels.
I say again that Jamie Greene may not be familiar with issues of commercial confidentiality. Of course due diligence has been conducted. That question was posed to me by the member who now seems more interested in other matters. Of course due diligence was undertaken in relation to the commercial loans.
These are commercial loans, with commercial terms and bound by commercial confidentiality. Is the member seriously suggesting that we should not respect that and not respect the fact that, through our interventions, the Government has helped not only to save the yard but to deliver 400 jobs in that part of Scotland? The vessels will be delivered. We have provided support through the loans to address the working capital issue that Ferguson Marine raised.
I say again that the more responsible members of the Conservative Party who are on the Finance and Constitution Committee were alerted to the loans. What I did went over and above the transparency that is expected of me as a cabinet secretary. In fact, it was in order to be fully transparent that I offered that information about the loans to the committee, which respected that.
I am aware that a committee of which Jamie Greene is a member has been invited out to the yard to find out more about the vessels. I do not think that he has visited the yard yet, despite that offer having been made.
The Government will do the right thing by Scottish industry and jobs. If that means that a Scottish shipbuilder is building vessels for our CalMac fleet, surely that should be welcomed.