'Brown signed deal'
McColl: ‘I would have accepted CMAL’s contract concerns’
Jim McColl, the former owner of Ferguson Marine, today said that if he had known about ferry operator CMAL’s objections to the company securing the contract for two vessels he would not have taken it on.
Mr McColl said Audit Scotland had provided answers to questions he had been asking for five years and stated that it was his belief that it was SNP deputy leader Keith Brown who signed the deal for the ferries.
Audit Scotland last week said CMAL, the state-owned operator, had advised the government not to award the contract to the Clyde yard.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that the decision on awarding the contract was purely commercial and followed due diligence. She said the procurement order was undertaken correctly.
Speaking in an interview about CMAL’s objections to awarding the contract to Ferguson Marine, Mr McColl said he had been unaware of its concerns.
“It is an absolutely fair criticism by CMAL. Had I known they were strongly opposed to it I would not have taken this contract,” he said.
“How can you work with a buyer who does not want you to be there?”
However, he took issue on claims about the company’s ability to do the work.
“I do not agree that we were not fit for purpose,” he said.
He said the former transport minister Derek Mackay was “actively involved” in the push to get the order for Ferguson, but was away when it was signed.
“I believe it was Keith Brown who signed it.”
Asked if the contracts were rushed through so the SNP could make political gain, Mr McColl said: “Absolutely. It is now clear from what was uncovered by Audit Scotland – and some SNP former ministers who said, yes it was a big issue at the time to be announced before the [SNP] conference, the first when Nicola Sturgeon was First Minister and the following year you had the election. So this was all for political capital.
“It’s thanks to Audit Scotland that this has all been uncovered.”
Mr McColl said the company signed for the original specification on the ferries but changes were made, incurring additional costs.
On responsibility for the delays, he said: “I am sure there was a small amount of responsibility that was with Ferguson.”
He accused the government of a propaganda campaign to blame the previous management at Ferguson.
“Ferguson’s has absolutely top-class management who did a great job,” he said. “They have been unfairly criticised and again I think this is clearly for political purposes to put the blame on to them, rather than the government accepting responsibility.”
Regarding his own political stance, he said that despite supporting the Yes Scotland campaign in the independence referendum of 2014, he said he was no longer in favour of breaking up the UK.
“I have never given any financial support, or said I was a supporter of the SNP.
“At the time I believed the country could do with more powers and there was no way they were going to get that other than through independence.
“With hindsight and events that have transpired since, not just this but many other issues, I wouldn’t support that now.”