Islanders views must be heard in new ferry decision-making

Tim Hair, left, pictured with convener Edward Mountain MSP as he tours the yard. Photo: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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A Holyrood probe into the construction of the overdue and over-budget MV Glen Sannox and her sister ship for CalMac has branded the management process a ‘catastrophic failure’.

In a damning report, MSPs call for ‘root and branch’ reform of the system for procuring ships for Scotland’s publicly-owned ferry network.

Former bosses at Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow, ministers, state-owned CMAL and Transport Scotland are all criticised. The ships are four years late and will cost twice the £97million contract price.


The committee also said the views of islanders – some of whom questioned the suitability of the ferry designs – should be given greater weight in future decision-making, the committee said.

There have been complaints that the ferry is too big, leading to the redesign of Ardrossan harbour, and there are fears she may have difficulty berthing at Brodick in certain weather conditions

The contract for the ships was awarded in 2015, a year after businessman Jim McColl stepped in to rescue Ferguson, the last commercial shipyard on the River Clyde.

The first ship was meant to enter service on the Arran route in the summer of 2018 but is now expected to be ready late next year. Hull 802, destined for an Outer Hebrides route, is still being built on the slipway. The latest estimated cost for both ships is just short of £200m.


The Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow has since gone into administration and been nationalised by the Scottish Government, meaning the money will be met from public funds.

A 129-page report from Holyrood’s rural economy and connectivity committee concluded that things started to go wrong from the outset.

While praising the skills and dedication of the Ferguson workforce, the MSPs said the system for procuring CalMac ferries was ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and should be overhauled, with some agencies reformed or even abolished.

The Scottish Government’s approach to the procurement of the ferries was described as ‘short term, piecemeal and lacking in strategic direction’.

And the ‘green’ credentials of the new hybrid ships – which can use both marine diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – were also questioned.

The LNG is currently set to be imported from the Middle East and transported by lorry from southern England, and could have an “overall negative environmental impact” unless Scotland develops its own facilities.

Branding it a ‘fiasco’, committee convener Edward Mountain said: ‘All parties involved must share in the responsibility for the catastrophic failure to deliver this contract on time or on budget.

‘A lack of due diligence, poor project management and a failure by all parties to take the necessary action to resolve problems as they emerged means that the cost of the contract has increased from £97m to almost £200m while the island communities who are relying on theses ferries to be delivered continue to suffer.’

The Scottish Government promised to study the report and said it would respond to its recommendations in due course. CMAL said it had given ‘robust’ evidence to the committee that the problems were driven by ‘supplier failure’.