Smells rotten! MSP warns ferry fiasco could be final chapter for Nicola Sturgeon as FM

Scotland: Labour MSP slams Nicola Sturgeon for ferry chaos

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The Scottish Government in Holyrood has come under fire amid reports of the debacle surrounding a superferry deal to the Clyde’s last commercial shipyard. A recent report into the deal concluded Nicola Sturgeon’s administration ignored official warnings in a project which has cost taxpayers at least £240million – around two and a half times the original price tag.

Opposition MSPs have since called for the First Minister to give evidence to a committee in Holyrood on how Ferguson Marine was awarded a contract to build two new ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne.

The Port of Glasgow yard was bought in 2014 by the then pro-independence industrialist Jim McColl.

Mr McColl, who has since said he accepts the result of the last independence referendum, has alleged the contracts were given “for political purposes” and suggested “everything was about the optics and timing the announcements for political gain”.

However, the First Minister responded to Mr McColl by telling LBC Radio: “It is absolutely, flatly, not the case.

“The procurement of the ferries – the awarding of that contract – was done in line with normal procurement processes with proper due diligence.”

However, Ms Sturgeon now faces growing pressure from pro-Unionist MSPs in Holyrood.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton, who replaced Willie Rennie as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, penned a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News tearing into the SNP administration.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Last week the Finance Secretary came to parliament to regretfully inform MSPs that the two Government-commissioned ferries under construction in Port Glasgow would be delayed yet again.

“She also confessed the cost of their delivery would be nearly three times the original contract.

“It sparked questions from opposition politicians and members of the press.

“Questions that have so far gone unanswered and which could threaten the First Minister’s survival in office.”

After detailing the events in the debacle, which included a half-functioning photoshoot in 2017, Mr Cole-Hamilton continued: “The Government is limping from crisis to crisis in their attempts to deliver these boats and shipbuilding experts suggest the final cost may reach over £400m, far outstripping the original £97m ‘fixed-price’ contract.

“All the while, island communities have had to face delays, breakdowns and cancellations as the clapped-out fleet that serves them lurches on, far past the date of their planned decommissioning.

“We’ve moved on from the Boaty McBoatfarce jibes.

“Something about the beleaguered Ferguson Marine yard, the interventions by SNP ministers and the two boats rusting in drydock and under construction these past seven years (!) smells rotten, almost to the point of corruption.”

The Edinburgh Western MSP added: “That is beyond scandalous and more than just a fiasco.

“In their quest for positive headlines, the SNP missed those key safeguards and as a result cost the public coffers the equivalent of six new high schools.

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“It’s a sorry chapter in the story of a once-proud industry and, given the severity of the allegations, could yet read as the final chapter in Nicola Sturgeon’s premiership.”

Murdo Fraser, Tory MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, also penned an op-ed criticising the SNP.

Writing in the Scotsman, the ex-deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives tore into Ms Sturgeon for burning bridges with previous allies, including Mr McColl.

Mr Fraser said: “Auld alliances are so easily forgotten by the top brass in the SNP that the French should start to worry.

“This is a product of their ‘reverse Government’ approach.

“Most administrations start with a policy, then find funding and then issue a press release to announce their plans.”

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