THERE is a bigger picture framing the Scottish Government’s role in the affairs of Ferguson Marine. This depiction goes beyond immediate indignation about its lack of transparency and exposes its poor grasp of reality. Not only has the Government an absence of vision, it fails even to benefit from hindsight: "those who fail to appreciate the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat them."

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has identified two key planks in the Government’s argument. First, that the "missing documentation", the justification for the sign-off on the contract award to Ferguson’s, was not a contributing factor to ferries being late, off-budget and poorly constructed. This is just wrong: had the full discussion, informed advice and related documentation been given their due significance, Ferguson Marine would not have proceeded to try to construct the ships. Alternative providers would have been engaged: and, by now, these ferries would have been plying for some five years between mainland Scotland and its islands.

Her second point is that the errant documentation provided a "missing link" that had the benefit of securing shipbuilding on the lower Clyde. In fact, it gave approval for the award of a contract to a company that was incapable of delivering on time and on budget. Ferguson’s was itself unprepared to provide financial indemnity, a self-declaration of unwillingness to proceed, if not inability. It is a depiction of a company that is not competitive, not even in its own skewed domestic market, failing to compete – or get beyond the starting line – in tendering processes for Scotland’s own ferries.

The ignorance displayed by the Scottish Government is staggering. It misreads recent history, and the reasons for the decline of Scottish shipbuilding. Intervention was founded on the false premise of an economic cycle, a downturn that can be reversed. But shipbuilding in Scotland was never going to recover from the terminal decline that spiralled from the third quarter of the 20th century. The Scottish economy needed reinvention that was realistic, not reimagining and reinventing a glorious past that, in fact, never existed.

Deindustrialisation has been allowed to happen without appropriate remedial action. The failures of successive Westminster and Scottish administrations date from the 1960s, testament to the inability of central and regional policies to re-profile the Scottish economy. But the SNP has been in power for 15 years. And its current defensiveness asserts that Scotland can dictate its own terms of engagement with the international economy, simply through political control.

A lasting remedy would have been to create an infrastructure of skills etc that allows economic activity to attract investment and connect to national and international markets. The SNP’s defence is that it saved jobs. The reality is, it preserved them, locked in a time-warped shipyard left behind in the international market, even the niche for short-haul ferries. It is self-deception by the SNP and gives false hope to the shipyard workers, whose future cannot lie in the past.

Professor William Wardle, Glasgow.


JOHN Murdoch's suggestion of a competition to name Hull 802 (Letters, May 7 is certain to bring about a response, albeit some none too kindly to the present administration.

Many shipping lines had names that still resonate.

We had the Castle Line, the Bank Line, and for Scotland, the Clan Line who appeared at one time to have more ships than there were clans. There was therefore a synergy effect with all the names having a resemblance to each other.

At one time Boaty McBoatface took the public fancy, no longer it seems.

In view of the fact that its sister ship is named Glen Sannox, surely Hull 802 should be named Glen Coe, with all its historical connotations.

Robin Johnston, Newton Mearns.


I HAD occasion to make contact with the dedicated bereavement teams of a number of large organisations following the death of a relation. In most cases I did manage to get through eventually on the phone but in the case of one company I came to the conclusion that it would be quicker to write.

For 45 minutes I had to listen to totally inappropriate music interspersed with a message that I was in a queue and should hold on. Either a lot of Scottish Power customers had died very recently or staff who were supposedly working from home weren’t.

I normally wouldn’t agree with anything that Jacob Rees-Mogg says or does but I have to go along with him in saying that employees should return to work in the office. It is obvious that larger employers have little or no control over what their employees are doing during the working day when they are at home. If things don’t change I foresee the return of the philosophy espoused by many in the past, namely “a fair week’s pay for a fair day’s work”.

Alan McGibbon, Paisley.


I NOTE that the Queen has taken steps to limit the numbers allowed on to the balcony at Buckingham Palace following the Platinum Jubilee Trooping the Colour on June 2 ("Andrew, Harry and Meghan will not join balcony line-up at start of celebrations", The Herald, May 7). I wonder whether or not the expansion in the numbers of the royal family over the years had something to do with that decision.

After all, look at the numbers involved now with the Queen’s own children and their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses, her great-grand children, and her other royal relatives. If no action had been taken , Health and Safety may have had to step in and Bob the Builder commissioned to extend and reinforce the balcony.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

*SO only "working royals" will be perched on the balcony for the Trooping of the Colours. What work qualifies?

Allan McDougall, Neilston.


IF there’s an award for ludicrous understatement it surely must go to Charles Rennie Macintosh director Stuart Robertson for his description of the School of Art as being "out of commission" ("Concern for Mackintosh gem whose doors are still shut", The Herald, May 7).

Stuart Neville, Clydebank.


IT comes as no surprise to me that sheep aren’t dim, and even use tools ("Wooly wonder, Herald Magazine, May 7).

I’ve known this since my days in primary school when a farmer’s son in my class described them in an essay as “gambling in the fields”.

Our young lady teacher, unconvinced, suggested that she wouldn’t bet on it.

R Russell Smith, Largs.