The decision on the ferry contract was not politically motivated, says former minister Mackay

The decision on the ferry contract was not politically motivated, says former minister Mackay

The decision on the ferry contract was not politically motivated, says former minister Mackay

Derek Mackay addressed the public scrutiny commission in his first Holyrood appearance in more than two years (Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament / AP) (PA Media)

Derek Mackay addressed the public scrutiny commission in his first Holyrood appearance in more than two years (Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament / AP) (PA Media)

Former finance secretary Derek Mackay has rejected claims that the awarding of a contract for two ferries – over budget and overdue – was politically motivated.

Mackay, who left the Scottish government in 2020 after messages sent to a 16-year-old boy were made public by the Scottish Sun, was the transport minister who awarded the contract to Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow in 2015.

The shipyard has since been nationalized to save it from administration and the Glen Sannox and the still unnamed 802 are expected to cost two and a half times more than expected and will be delivered five years late.

Critics said the contract was rushed to allow an announcement to be made at the SNP conference in 2015, but the former minister dismissed the claim.

“No one has ever been compromised on that issue, the decision to award the contract to Ferguson was based on Ferguson’s offer, nothing else,” he told Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee on Thursday.

Mr. Mackay, who has not been seen in Holyrood since leaving the position of finance secretary, also said he “can’t imagine” Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon was personally involved in the procurement of the ferries.

The former minister left the committee room through an alternate exit, avoiding the waiting reporters.

In the session, Mackay also dismissed claims that he had been portrayed as a “failure” to the Scottish government in recent years after leaving politics.

“I said in my opening remarks to the committee that I will take my share of responsibility and will firmly respond to any decisions I have made,” Craig Hoy said in response to conservative MSP.

“But equally, I recognize Ferguson’s catastrophic failure to complete the ferries on time and within budget, which is deeply regrettable.

“But what I don’t mind is protecting the workforce and ensuring the yard is supported, it has a future and we have been able to support Scottish shipbuilding.”

Asked who else should share responsibility, Mackay said: “According to the Auditor General and the former (Committee on Rural Affairs and Connectivity) in the former Parliament, there are multiple shortcomings.

“I don’t think it’s all up to me, but other people have advised that there are more failures here.”

The committee’s investigation was prompted by a report by Auditor General Stephen Boyle, who found a lack of documentary evidence for the decision to move forward with the contract despite the lack of a full manufacturer’s warranty, an industry standard designed to protect the buyer.

Affairs Minister Ivan McKee confirmed this week that the ships are on track to be delivered in May and December next year, respectively, and there is currently no expected increase in overspending.

The issue was raised on Thursday during the prime minister’s questions, with Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross saying the money paid for the ferries could have been used elsewhere in the Scottish government’s budget.

Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney this week announced more than £ 500 million in cuts following public sector wage deals.

Ross said: “These failures leave the islanders without rescue services and steal money from the frontline spending we need here in Scotland.”

Sturgeon said he clarified his “regret” over the situation, but said the £ 250m spent on ships would be compared to £ 1.7bn expected to be written off the Scottish government budget due to inflation. .

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