Gilruth accused

Scots ‘betrayed’ as Turkish yard wins ferries deal

Jenny Gilruth
Jenny Gilruth: hopes communities will be pleased

The Scottish Government has been accused of cowardice and betrayal after announcing before the Christmas break that a contract to build two ferries has been awarded to a Turkish shipyard.

Procurement agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) intends the work to go to Cemre Marin Endustri A.S which is already building two vessels for the island communities.

Jim Anderson, director of Vessels at CMAL, said: “This is a big step forward in procuring two new vessels for the Little Minch routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert.

“These ferries will deliver dedicated services to North Uist and Harris in the peak season, rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place.

“We will now enter a 10 day standstill period before finalising the contract. We intend to share an update in early January after the festive period with further information, such as forecasted delivery dates.”

Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities, so I’m pleased to see CMAL name the preferred bidder for the two additional ferries.

“I hope this progress will be welcomed by island communities who depend on these lifeline ferry services.”

But fellow nationalists in the Alba party accused CMAL and Scottish Government Ministers of colluding to ensure that the ferries are built overseas. 

Alba’s Inverclyde-based General Secretary said that CMAL’s decision to announce the preferred bidder on just before the festive break is an “act of cowardice and a betrayal on the Eve of Christmas”.

He said: “This decision is not a surprise as those of us that care about Scottish shipbuilding jobs warned that CMAL;’s decision to go to tender was an act of collusion with the Scottish Government to ensure the orders would go to overseas yards. 

“It is bitterly disappointing that the MP and MSP for Inverclyde have sat on in silence and facilitated work that should be getting carried out in Inverclyde being sent abroad. This is a complete betrayal to shipyard workers in Inverclyde and to Scotland’s proud shipbuilding tradition. 

“Sneaking out the decision on the Friday before Christmas is nothing short of an act of cowardice on the part of CMAL and the Scottish Government, but it is one we will not let them get away with.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP also criticised the decision, saying it was “a stark reminder of the mismanagement of the ferry construction programme under the SNP.”

He added: “We need a recovery programme for Ferguson so that it is capable of winning future contracts.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “It is scandalous that the SNP has put Scottish shipbuilding in the position where it cannot be considered suitable for such a job.”

In October the Scottish Government prioritised additional funding to enable CMAL to accelerate plans for replacement vessels.

The two new vessels will be built to the same specification as the existing ferries under construction at Cemre for Islay. The government said this will speed up the replacement of the major vessel fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes.

Ms Gilruth added: “Our intention is that these vessels will be deployed on the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, creating the opportunity to significantly increase capacity and resilience by delivering dedicated services to communities in the peak season.”

She said it would allow consideration of all options to deploy Vessel 802 – one of the delayed vessels being built at Ferguson Marine –on an alternative route.

“All of these options will be discussed with island communities, including potentially operating alongside her sister ship, the MV Glen Sannox [the other Ferguson vessel], to provide additional capacity to and from Arran in the peak season,” she said. 

“It is imperative that island communities have their say in any future deployments. I look forward to continuing engagement through our work on Project Neptune to improve the delivery of ferry services on the Clyde and Hebrides network.”

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