Sturgeon branded relentlessly incompetent as watchdog highlights £240m bill for ferries

Nicola Sturgeon sparks furious row with independence bid

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The humiliating report by Scotland’s spending watchdog showed “a multitude of failings” in the delivery of two vessels by the state-owned shipyard Ferguson Marine. Delivery was delayed, causing the price to more than double, and there is still no certainty on when the vessels will be finished and ready to sail. The report says the SNP approved the deal back in 2015 in a “relentlessly incompetent” move, ignoring “significant financial and procurement risks”.

Ferries 801 and 802 would serve the Clyde and Hebrides islands, replacing other ageing vessels, and were due to be delivered in 2018.

The original price of the contract was £97m, but due to the four-year delay, it has now surged to £240m.

In the 72-page report, Audit Scotland highlighted how major problems still remain unresolved at the shipyard constructing the “lifeline” ferries for Scottish islands.

This comes more than two years after the Scottish government took over control of Port Glasgow, as well as the shipyard.

Audit Scotland said that significant operational failures still need to be fully resolved and further remedial work on the vessels continues to be uncovered.

The watchdog said: “The project to deliver Vessels 801 and 802 for the Clyde and Hebrides has been beset with delays and spiralling costs.

“The ferries are now almost four years late, with no certainty on when they will be complete.

“The total cost of the project is currently estimated to be at least £240 million, around two and a half times the original contract price.”

Moreover, the watchdog highlighted that the delay and the additional costs have frustrated island communities and weakened resilience across Scotland’s ferry network.

According to the report, Scottish ministers approved the contract despite significant risks caused by the shipyard’s inability to provide mandatory refund guarantees.

Moreover, risks noted about the “severe misgivings of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited” were also ignored by the SNP government.

And the report concluded: “There is insufficient evidence to explain why Scottish ministers made this decision.”

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The failure to deliver these two ferries, on time and on budget, exposes a multitude of failings.”

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The auditor blasted the government over “a lack of transparent decision-making, a lack of project oversight, and no clear understanding of what significant sums of public money have achieved.”

She said: “Not only did our efforts save the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde from closure, we directly rescued more than 300 jobs and ensured that the two vessels – which are vital for our island communities – will be delivered.”

Ms Forbes added: “There is no doubt that getting the vessels completed has been extremely challenging but let me be absolutely clear, these vessels must be delivered as soon as possible.”

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