Tories call for answers
SNP urged to explain why billionaire received £45m loans
Jim McColl: company received taxpayer money
The Scottish Conservatives are demanding the SNP government explains why it loaned taxpayer money to a shipyard owned by one of its wealthiest supporters.
Documents published under freedom of information legislation show that Ferguson Marine Engineering, owned by billionaire Jim McColl, received two loans totalling £45 million.
The initial loan of £15m was made in September 2017 and a subsequent loan of £30m in June this year.
The initial loan was kept secret due to ‘commercial confidentiality’ and has only just come to light.
Concerns have now been raised about why the two loans were needed when the firm has also received almost £100m from publicly funded Calmac to build two ferries.
The Scottish Conservatives have therefore requested that the SNP makes a statement to the Scottish Parliament clarifying all the details.
The SNP has already come under fire for delays to the project, while the company itself is understood to be dissatisfied with ministers’ handling of delays and budget difficulties.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman said: “This SNP Government has a record of secrecy, cover ups, and behind closed-doors deals.
“There are now mounting question marks over its handling of this vital ferries contract, and the suspicion is that the SNP is once again trying to hide the facts from emerging.
“When huge sums of public money are at stake, the public has a right to know what is going.
“The Minister needs to come to the chamber next week and do just that.”
Mr McColl’s company is building the two ferries for the state-run operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) and said it took the government loans in nine months as it needed “working capital” to diversify the business.
The Port Glasgow yard was acquired by Mr McColl, a Monaco resident and member of the first minister’s council of economic advisers, after it went into administration in 2014. Ferguson’s is owned by Clyde Blowers Capital, Mr McColl’s industrial investment company.
The following year the yard was awarded the ferry contract, securing the jobs of 150 people.