Furious exchange

McColl accuses First Minister of lying over ferry jobs

Ferguson Marine workers
Ferguson workers have been drawn into a bitter war of words

The former owner of the Ferguson Marine shipyard has accused the First Minister of lying in an increasingly bitter war of words over the awarding of a contract for two ferries.

Jim McColl, a one-time SNP government adviser, disputed claims by Nicola Sturgeon that the Clyde shipyard would have closed without the order and that 400 jobs were saved by the government’s intervention.

“That’s a lie,” McColl said in a radio interview. “At the time there were 150 employees, not 400. I think she was a bit rattled in the interview and she mixed it up with the statement that they made about saving the yard.”

When the interviewee suggested that describing Ms Sturgeon’s statement as a lie was “very strong”, he replied: “Well, it’s not true.”

Contrary to suggestions that the government saved the yard, Mr McColl said it had been working on other contracts and he defended the skills of the management who were dismissed when ministers decided to take over.

“The yard had outstanding work. It was still working on the ferry, Catriona, which wasn’t launched until 2016, was delivered early and on budget,” he said.

“It also had additional construction work, fabrication work, so there was no danger of the yard going under at that time.

MV Catriona was delivered early and on budget

“That was a slip by the First Minister in the interview and it was about the constant, repeated statements she makes about 400 employees at the yard.”

He admitted to making a mistake of his own in a previous interview when he had claimed that he did not sign the contract for the ferries. He said that in fact he had counter-signed it.

The dispute revolves around vessels are five years late and will cost £240 million, more than double their original £95 million price tag.

An Audit Scotland report outlined a ‘multitude of failings’ in the project, with ‘significant operational failures’ being highlighted by the watchdog.

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