FORMER senior management of the shipyard at the centre of a ferry building fiasco have condemned MSPs for failing to call to account the First Minister and other senior ministers in an inquiry.

The group led by previous Ferguson Marine owner, tycoon Jim McColl say a fresh inquiry is now required over the debacle which led to the collapse of company and state nationalisation which they say was an act of "aggressive opportunism and gross incompetence".

The management group said that the Scottish Government had “confiscated” Ferguson Marine, the owners of the last civilian shipyard on the Clyde, that "had been well invested" and questioned the legality of the state takeover.

They said:"The Scottish Government did not save Ferguson shipyard: they were the cause of it going into administration."

READ MORE: State-run 'ferry fiasco' Ferguson Marine shipyard firm makes £100m loss in four months

They accuse ministers of forcing it into insolvency by rejecting a plan that would avoid any state aid claim, save the taxpayer at least £120m and prevent the costs of building two key ferries soaring to what they believe is now over £250m.

The group are responding for the first time to the results of a Holyrood probe over the construction of the two overdue and over-budget lifeline ferries for CalMac which branded the management process a "catastrophic failure".

In a damning report MSPs called for "root and branch" reform of the system for procuring ships for Scotland's publicly-owned ferry network.

Former bosses at Ferguson shipyard, ministers, state-owned ferry owner and procurer Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency are all criticised over the failure to deliver the two long overdue lifeline island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 which has led to costs more than doubling from the original £97m contract.

Ferguson Marine's financial collapse in August, 2019 resulted in state takeover, while the delivery of the ferries which were due online in the first half of 2018 will be between four and five years late.

Mr McColl, who rescued the yard when it went bust in 2014, blamed repeated design changes by taxpayer-funded CMAL for the issues in building the vessels.

The former executives of Ferguson Marine say that a "fundamental flaw" in the Holyrood inquiry was failing to call to account those who "were most intimately involved in the ultimately catastrophic dispute between Ferguson Marine and CMAL.

They named them as Nicola Sturgeon, finance secretary Derek Mackay and Liz Ditchburn, the director general for the economy.


The group said the First Minister was made aware of the "serious issues" Ferguson was experiencing with CMAL as early in May 2017 and that early action could have averted the ferry-building chaos

The executives said the ministers that were called to give evidence "were at no time involved during the period of the dispute", were "not competent to contribute" and yet were "erroneously presumed to be qualified to apportion blame".

"Only a public inquiry, chaired by an independent judge - with the mandatory provision of evidence given under oath, has any prospect of revealing the full truth behind the mismanagement by the Scottish Government of its fully owned subsidiary, CMAL, the resultant loss of FMEL and along with that outcome, the destruction of prospects for shipbuilding on the Lower Clyde," the executive group said.

"The catastrophic nature of this whole fiasco around the procurement and construction of ferry vessels in Scotland demands a more forensic examination than has been possible with the [Holyrood] inquiry."

They said the MSPs inquiry should only be seen as a "first step and cannot be allowed as a way of sweeping this whole sorry state of affairs under the rug. The Scottish people, particularly those in the island communities deserve better."

They said a root and branch overhaul over ferry procurement decision making is required immediately, saying: "The whole system is a mess and our island communities, and the local Inverclyde community, are the ones who suffer and will continue to suffer until the system is radically changed."

The former management also said there appeared to be a "complete lack of awareness" amongst ministers as to just how bad the current situation is at the now state-run company.

And they said an audit needs to be carried out urgently to establish where the yard is in terms of completing the two vessels and understanding the costs to complete.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government stands firm on its commitment to the vessels, the workforce and the yard. The delivery of the vessels is critical to supporting the lifeline ferry network by adding two new badly needed vessels to the Calmac fleet.

“Ministers are committed to transparency and have cooperated at every stage of the parliamentary inquiry. We have proactively published large volumes of information on our website and evidence was provided to the inquiry as and when requested. As with every parliamentary inquiry, it is entirely up to Scottish Parliamentary committees who they choose to give evidence. The Scottish Government had no role in this whatsoever.”