Ex-minister grilled

Mackay: ‘no political agenda in ferries contract’

Derek Mackay: ‘there was no rush’

Former Transport Minister Derek Mackay today said there was no political agenda behind the decision to award two ferry contracts to Ferguson Marine.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the troubled contract which is late and over-budget, he told MSPs that “there was no rush” to reach a decision.

His comments to the public audit committee followed claims by former Ferguson owner Jim McColl that the SNP government was keen to make an announcement before the party’s conference.

Asked today by Conservative MSP Sharon Dowey if there was any political agenda in the timing of the announcement, Mr Mackay replied bluntly: “No.”

Saying he was “going to resist getting into petty politics”, he added: “I do not think there is any evidence it was rushed.”

He said: “The decision to award the contract to Ferguson’s was based on Ferguson’s bid. Nothing else.”

Tory MSP Craig Hoy asked if Mr Mackay felt he was being lined up to be the “fall guy”.

“Is this operation blame Derek Mackay?” he asked.

Craig Hoy: was Mr Mackay the fall guy?

Mr Mackay said he was prepared to take his share of responsibility for what went wrong. “I recognise the catastrophic failure to complete the vessels.

“But what I do not regret is protecting the workforce.. and that we able to support Scottish shipbuilding.”

He added that “of course” he was concerned about an initial lack of a Builder’s Refund Guarantee but there was mitigation in the submission..

“I considered the advice, I was satisfied with the advice, therefore I informed my private office to proceed,” he said.

He also challenged Jim McColl’s view that the yard would have coped without the contract.

The former minister said that if the government hadn’t nationalised the yard it would have gone into administration and workers would have been sent home.

“It allowed us to continue with completion of the vessels,” he said.

He insisted it was “the right thing to do” to safeguard the jobs and give the yard a future and denied due diligence had not been carried out.

“There was no lack of due diligence”, he said, adding that there were “numerous meetings with officials and PwC and all options had been exhausted”.

.. more follows

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