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MSPs demand Mackay called to explain ferry decision

Derek Mackay
Derek Mackay: signed the contract (pic: Terry Murden)

Opposition MSPs are demanding that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Finance Secretary and transport minister Derek Mackay are called to parliament to explain government decisions behind the the Ferguson Marine ferry debacle.

Labour and Liberal Democrats members accused Ms Sturgeon of attempting to pass the blame on to Mr Mackay for signing off the controversial deal to place the order with the Clyde yard against the advice of their own operator.

The government’s public finances watchdog this week claimed it was impossible to determine how the decision was taken and said there had been a “multitude of failures” in handling the over-budget and long-delayed order for two island ferries.

The First Minister told Holyrood yesterday that Mr Mackay signed off the contract.

Ms Sturgeon insisted the “buck stops with me” but then she and her spokesman distanced her from the decision, instead pointing the finger at Mackay.

Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats demanded answers from Ms Sturgeon and Mr Mackay – who resigned as finance secretary after sending messages to a teenage boy. He is no longer in politics.

In a letter to the public audit committee convenor Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said: “the public deserve answers”.

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The pair have already refused to appear before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s Inquiry into the fiasco last term, and SNP and Green members blocked attempts to compel them.

Mr Bibby said: “After years of delays and millions of pounds of overruns, the public deserve answers about what went so catastrophically wrong here.

“Nicola Sturgeon pointed the finger at her former Transport Secretary before accepting that the buck stops with her – but both dodged scrutiny last term by refusing to appear before a Parliamentary inquiry.

“We cannot keep getting useless answers from clueless Ministers who take no responsibility for this mess.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said Mr Mackay should be brought to parliament to answer questions on who signed off key decisions relating to Ferguson Marine and the two ferries that it is constructing.

“If we are to take the First Minister at her word, it was Derek Mackay and Derek Mackay alone who signed off on deals which are set to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions more than originally scheduled. 

“It is awfully convenient for Nicola Sturgeon that the latest scandal threatening to beset her government can be neatly blamed on someone who has since departed politics. 

“Derek Mackay should appear before parliament to give his side of the story and confirm whether it is true that the First Minister and the rest of her cabinet had no input into the decision to take over Ferguson Marine.

“Island communities have been let down and deserve answers.”

Scottish Tories transport spokesman Graham Simpson has demanded a full public inquiry into the scandal.

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