Douglas Ross slams John Swinney over ferry contracts
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Nicola Sturgeon has personally taken responsibility for the blunder as a £97million contract awarded to CalMac at Ferguson shipyard has risen to over £250million in costs. The First Minister said she would learn from the experience which has left Scottish islands without vital ferry links to the mainland.
Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Douglas Ross has likened the series of slip ups and blunders to banana skins.
Taking to Twitter he said: “The SNP’s ferry contract had more banana skins than the monkey house at Edinburgh Zoo.”
Mr Ross also used the phrase when addressing the issue in Holyrood.
He said: “The Deputy First Minister confirmed, and this is a quote from these emails.
“First Minister, ‘the absence of banana skins.’
“John Swinney couldn’t find a single banana skin when they were absolutely littered around him.
“There were more banana skins in this project than there are in the monkey house at Edinburgh zoo.”
Mr Ross’ speech was met with a volley of laughs as other MSPs joined in with the enjoyment of the parody.
The latest news surrounding the botched deal has shown Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney was made aware of the contract prior to it being awarded to Jim McColl’s Ferguson Marine.
Mr Swinney denied he had given the “final nod” over the deal, but did admit he did give the contract “budget approval.”
A spokesman for Nicola Sturgeon later said Mr Swinney was not aware of the financial risks associated with the contract.
Recent reports have also shown that Scottish ministers were warned of “significant procurement risks” relating to the ill-fated contract.
The report giving such advice said: “The impact of a successful legal challenge could be high – in the worst case the contract could be declared ineffective – and a challenge could be brought at any time as the contract terms are not being made public.”
Aside from the ferries being over budget, the Glen Sannox and the as-yet unnamed Hull 802 are over five years behind schedule for completion.
A recent report from Audit Scotland found there was “insufficient documentary evidence” to explain why the contract to build the vessels was given to the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow, which has since been nationalised, without a full refund guarantee.
Some reports have suggested the contract was awarded as failure to do so would lead to significant job losses for the shipyard, and hence impact the local economy.
The shipyard has denied such allegations.
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Mr Ross also demanded the Deputy First Minister issue a statement on the issue.
He said people deserve “to hear why he forged ahead with the deal that has cost taxpayers a quarter of a billion pounds”
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Mr Swinney said: “As finance secretary at the time, I’m responsible for providing the budget for the meeting of any contracts.
“What officials were doing was briefing me that there was no need to change the budget arrangements based on the contract that had been agreed and approved by the transport portfolio, and which, of course, is confirmed by the email trail you got yesterday.”
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Asked if he had given the “nod” for the deal, Mr Swinney said “What I gave was the budget approval, which I had given in August.
“And the budget approval I gave in August of 2015, the officials assured me on October 9 did not need to be changed.”
He added: “The finance secretary does not approve all contracts.
“If that was the arrangement there would be significant inefficiency in the processing of contracts within Government.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said it was her “understanding” that Mr Swinney was not made aware of the financial risks.
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