Will address MSPs

Mackay keen to ‘set record straight’ over ferries fiasco

Derek Mackay
Derek Mackay: willing to co-operate (photo: Terry Murden)

Derek Mackay, the former transport minister blamed by Nicola Sturgeon for the CalMac ferries fiasco, has indicated his willingness to appear before the Scottish parliament in order to set the record straight.

Mr Mackay has said he will cooperate with a parliamentary inquiry that could help determine who was responsible for signing the contract with Ferguson Marine against the advice of the government’s own ferry operator CMAL.

It is understood Mr Mackay feels he has been made a scapegoat by ministers. An appearance at the inquiry would be his first public statement since being forced out of politics on the eve of the Scottish budget two years ago after sending a series of texts to a 16 year old boy.

His decision to speak publicly comes after a damning report by Audit Scotland into the procurement of the ferries order and subsequent delays and cost over-runs.

Although the First Minister has suggested that Mr Mackay signed off the contract, the former boss of Ferguson Marine Jim McColl last week said it was his understanding that Keith Brown had signed it.

A friend of Mr Mackay, who has launched a career as a business consultant, told The Sunday Times: “Derek believes he has been victimised in this whole affair and he is happy to appear at the committee where he will set the record straight and deal with the facts.

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“He says in fact he was fourth in the pecking order around these ferry orders, as junior transport minister — the most junior of those dealing with them. He was behind the main players: Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Keith Brown.

“Anyone who knows anything about the way these processes work knows something of this size could never have happened without prior approval at the highest levels.”

In a statement, Mr Mackay told the newspaper: “I am willing to co-operate with a parliamentary committee and do my best to answer any questions they may have. To do so as comprehensively as possible I will seek access to the necessary papers and information that I am entitled to as a former government minister.”

Holyrood’s public audit committee is expected later this month to authorise a parliamentary inquiry into the ferries scandal. The committee has a majority of opposition MSPs and is chaired by former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

The inquiry could prove embarrassing for Ms Sturgeon, who has been accused by opponents of misleading parliament over the affair.

He said: “Given the auditor-general’s comments and CMAL’s well-documented doubts about the absence of loan guarantees, what were the accountable officers, the senior civil servants, in the Scottish government and Transport Scotland doing about this?

“Someone has to be held to account, there must be full transparency, full publication of documents and emails before a parliamentary committee. Ultimately there must be a time limited judge-led inquiry.”

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Commenting on the latest developments, Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said: “These comments are bound to raise blood pressure at Bute House

“We welcome Derek Mackay offering to give evidence. Nicola Sturgeon and Kate Forbes [the Finance and Economy Secretary] have completely failed to explain why the taxpayer has been ripped off, islanders have been let down and the workforce have had their futures threatened.

“A committee inquiry is a chance for Derek Mackay to set the record straight at last, and shed some desperately needed light on this murky scandal.

“The First Minister’s attempt to pin the blame on Mackay fell apart within hours, but he was still at the centre of the dodgy deal.

“After weeks of spin, secrecy and non-answers from a string of Ministers, we have to hope Mackay will come clean where his former colleagues have failed.

“Five years on and £150 million later, clear answers about who made these decisions and why are the least the public deserve.”



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