McConnell demands police investigate ferries fiasco
A former First Minister of Scotland has demanded the police investigate the missing documentation surrounding the Ferguson Marine ferries fiasco.
Lord (Jack) McConnell, who led the Scotland government from 2001 to 2007, wants the auditor-general Stephen Boyle to request Police Scotland establish if the relevant documentation was removed or destroyed and, if so, whether a crime was committed.
His intervention came after Mr Boyle told MSPs last week that the failure to record decisions relating to the ferries contract was at odds with the Public Finance and Accountability Act.
In a report last month Audit Scotland said it could not establish why SNP ministers disregarded the advice of procurement agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) not to award the work to the yard because it could not offer the required guarantees.
The yard was run at the time by Jim McColl, who was in favour of Scottish independence. Following Audit Scotland’s report he said the decision to award the contract to Ferguson Marine was made in order to boost the SNP’s standing ahead of a party conference. The SNP has denied this.
The ferries have been beset with delays and cost over-runs that have left taxpayers with a bill of £240 million – twice the original budget.
Ms Sturgeon initially sought to pin blame for signing the contract on Derek Mackay, who was transport minister at the time and who has offered to give evidence to parliament.
The latest twist, that the relevant documentation cannot be found, has prompted opposition parties to suspect a cover-up.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “regrettable” that key decisions around the contract for the vessels were not recorded properly. But she denies a cover-up and has said the Scottish government will learn any lessons needed.
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has called for a public inquiry. He said: “It is simply not good enough for the First Minister to merely wring her hands and express regret that this key document has apparently gone missing.
“She and her government were quick enough to locate an email purporting to pin the blame for the catastrophic decision to award the contract to Ferguson Marine on Derek Mackay. Yet we are asked to accept that there is no email trail anywhere in the system that reveals why SNP ministers took the reckless decision to ignore CMAL’s warnings about the financial risk to taxpayers.”
Mr Ross added: “Nicola Sturgeon continually insists she has nothing to hide over the ferries fiasco and that she takes ultimate responsibility. If so, she would surely welcome a public inquiry to remove the growing suspicion over her government’s actions.”