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Scandal 'goes to top'

FM accused of PR spin as McColl demands full ferry inquiry


The ferries remain unfinished at the shipyard

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was accused of being more interested in PR spin over the Ferguson ferries contract than ensuring the project was being properly handled, it has been claimed.

Jim McColl, whose business was awarded the contract for two CalMac ferries, told a Holyrood inquiry the Scottish Government had withheld some “key documents” from publication.

He said Ms Sturgeon had announced the deal for the two vessels before anything had even been agreed.

Mr McColl, who rescued Ferguson Marine from collapse, accused ministers of defamation, and said only a full public inquiry would flush out the truth behind the failed scheme.

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles said: “Jim McColl’s evidence to the committee was astonishing.

“There was a problem with this contract right from the outset. The First Minister undermined it by being more interested in PR gloss than setting the project out on the right footing.

The Tories said the scandal, which has delivered no vessels and cost the taxpayer £230 million, “goes right to the top” of the SNP government.

Holyrood’s Rural Economy Committee also heard that mediation between interested parties in the construction of the ferries could have saved millions, but was never properly organised.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene said: “The plot thickens with every piece of evidence this inquiry hears.

“SNP ministers from the First Minister down are mired in this shambles.

“The taxpayer is out of pocket to the tune of £230 million, no new ferries have been delivered for our island communities, and now the SNP is doing everything it can to cover up this scandal.

“This goes straight to the top of the SNP Government and the time for apologies has long past.

“The First Minister, her finance secretary and a raft of SNP ministers must be properly held to account over their gross incompetence and negligence.

“Jim McColl is right in demanding that only a full public inquiry, with witnesses giving evidence under oath, will unearth why hundreds of millions of pounds of public money has been so badly mishandled by the SNP.

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