This article appears as part of the Scotland's Ferries newsletter.

Ministers are under new pressure to lift the secrecy around the financial justification for continuing to plough millions more into resolving Scotland's ferry fiasco after moves to block an analysis on which the decision was based.

Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy Secretary Neil Gray admitted in May that the value for money case for delivery of the vessel only known as Hull 802 "had not been made" and that it would be cheaper to procure a new ferry, saying increasing costs were "extremely disappointing".

But he gave a rare written authority to plough ahead with supporting the delivery of the two ferries at Ferguson Marine, saying it is the "platform upon which future success can be built".

He said that non-delivery of the ferries at nationalised Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) would put the very future of the yard and the jobs it supports "in jeopardy".

And he said procuring a new vessel would mean it would not be delivered till May 2027 at the earliest and said that the value for money case for the second delayed vessel Glen Sannox had been met.

The extra £72m cash for Ferguson Marine for this financial year which began on April 1, has been under due diligence since September last year over concerns about the soaring costs of the two lifeline ferries that are now around six years late – with costs expected to be quadruple the original £97m contract.

MSPs have been told that the 'value for money' analysis by consultants Teneo – that cost the taxpayer £620,000 – will not be disclosed because it is feared it will jeopardise the future of Ferguson Marine.

The review said it would be cheaper to scrap Hull 802 and place a new order elsewhere. But the government said continuing the build of Hull 802 was the fastest way of securing a new ship.

Attempts to get a detailed comparison of the cost of completing Hull 802 against the cost of scrapping it and starting again through Freedom of Information legislation have failed.

The Herald:

But the convener of the Scottish Parliament's public audit committee Richard Leonard has said details of the financial reasoning for forging ahead must be made available.

There is concern in some quarters over how the public spending auditors Audit Scotland can carry out its own probe into the issuing of the written authority and the due diligence procedure without transparency around the costs.

Mr Leonard has told Neil Gray that he should further consider that information can be made publicly available over the value for money assessment.

He told Mr Gray that it was "in the public interest that the information is subject to parliamentary scrutiny".

But he said that the committee were "unconvinced" that this means none of the information contained can be provided.

On June 15, Gregor Irwin, the Scottish Government director-general for the economy advised that "the Scottish Government has a proactive and transparent approach to making information available where possible".

Mr Leonard has told Mr Gray that in light of that, he should "reconsider what information can be made publicly available to demonstrate this commitment".

The committee has also been seeking details of a report by consultants FMI that was also considered into operations at FMPG as part of wider work to evaluate the shipyard’s productivity which supported the analysis of proposals for continued investment.

Those details were also blocked.

Mr Irwin had said: "Disclosure of the reports would impact on FMPG’s ability to compete for and win new business and thereby jeopardise the commercial future of the yard. It would also potentially compromise the commercial interests and intellectual property of our advisors."

The Herald:
He went on to say in a letter: "I would like to reaffirm that the Scottish Government remains committed to being as open and transparent as possible in relation to decisions around FMPG and [the vessels]".

The Scottish Government has previously come under fire for ferry secrecy by refusing to publish the full details of the full contract between Ferguson Marine and government-owned ferry owning and procurement agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) into the building of the stricken vessels.

Tycoon Jim McColl, the former owner of Ferguson Marine – before it went into administration in August 2019 and nationalised by the Scottish Government – said it showed it was not a fixed price contract and he was entitled to ask for extra money to fulfil it.

Vital pages were removed from the document before they were finally published by the Scottish Government. These include crucial financial details about the contract, guarantees, payment details, permissible delays and cost liabilities.

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The full contract was finally published by the Scottish Government in July, after Mr McColl submitted it to the public audit committee.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government remains committed to being as open and transparent as possible in relation to decisions around Ferguson Marine (FMPG) and vessels 801 and 802.

"The Director General Economy wrote to the convenor of the public audit committee on June 15, confirming the Scottish Government’s approach, however he also stated that the disclosure of due diligence reports would impact on FMPG’s ability to compete for and win new business and therefore disclosure of the reports would jeopardise the commercial future of the shipyard.

"The due diligence concluded that the value for money criteria were met for Glen Sannox. In setting out the decision to issue a written authority to enable work on vessel 802 to continue, there was clear, cross-party acknowledgement that this was the appropriate course of action – not least as it presented the fastest possible route to getting vital new lifeline services into service."

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