THE transport minister was accused of treating the Scottish Parliament with 'contempt' after claiming to have found a 'missing' email that showed that the ferry fiasco contract was finally approved by then transport minister Derek Mackay.

The email was discovered at noon just before a debate on the calamitous contract given Jim McColl-led Ferguson Marine which has seen two lifeline vessels still not delivered, running over five years late and over double the budget.

A missing document detailing decision-making was disclosed by Jenny Gilruth and has prompted a war of words in the Scottish Parliament with Scottish Labour's transport spokesman Neil Bibby raising a point of order saying she was treating the Parliament with "contempt".

It came after the public finance auditors expressed "frustration" over a lack of documentary evidence around why ministers were happy to accept the risks of proceeding with awarding the controversial £97m order to Ferguson Marine without mandatory refund guarantees from the shipbuilder.

Audit Scotland found that ministers went ahead with granting the contract despite the concerns raised by the Government’s ferry procurement body, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) over the lack of financial guarantees that placed them at risk.


Scottish Parliament public audit committee convener Richard Leonard has previously said  correspondence between officials in the Scottish Government and at CMAL suggested there was a ministerial direction, but that it had not been appropriately recorded.

And he suggested that that the transparency failure was a breach of the Public Finance and Accountability Act.

Ms Gilruth said in her announcement to MSPs: "I have some good news to share with the parliament. And indeed I have that good news literally here in my hand.

"The missing document has been found. Ministers  were advised of this by officials shortly before noon today and I wanted to take the first available opportunity to give parliament this news. 

"The document is an email that makes clear who approved the decision to award the contract to build vessels 801 and 802 to Ferguson's shipyard, sent in response to the key submission [by CMAL] on the October 8,  2015.

"It is dated October 9 at 1432 and it reads, 'the minister is content with the proposals and we'd like them to be moved on as quickly as possible, please'.


"The email was sent by the Office of the Minister of Transport and Islands.  I hold in my hand that irrefutable documentary evidence that this decision was made rightly and properly by the then transport minister Derek Mackay. 

"We said we would continue to look in good faith and that is exactly what we have done."

She said it was found because by chance a copy of an email chain between two officials who left government some years ago included the email from the transport minister's private office and was "buried "in someone's electronic files.

"Now the email confirms what we said it would say,  it is basically one line long because that is how the system of government works. This documentation has been provided to the Auditor General and is now being published," said Ms Gilruth.

"But this email destroys the opposition's ridiculous conspiracy theories that another minister made this decision and it destroys the unfounded speculation that there was a ministerial direction given."

Scottish Labour's transport spokesman  raised a point of order saying the minister had treated the parliament and MSPs with contempt.


"Members are meant to treat others with courtesy and respect. The transport minister has revealed an email to the chamber this afternoon that nobody else has seen in this chamber," he said. " It's absolutely unacceptable that the minister is actually treating the parliament and members with contempt. Where is the email we've not been sent it, no-one's seen it. This is utterly unacceptable and disrespectful to the parliament, the  way this government's behaving."

The presiding officer Alison Johnstone said: "I too was unaware of this development. I think it is something that will be reflected upon and a response will be given later this afternoon to the member if that's acceptable."

Scottish Conservatives shadown transport minister Graham Simpson said the email  does not say why the decision was taken and why the advice not to not to award that contract was ignored. "

Ms Gilroy responded: "The opposition have to give up they have an answer here today. If the opposition don't take my word for it, they need to listen to the  voters on our island communities.

" They're the ones who want to see progress on this."

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats responded:  "She is expecting us to believe that a multi million pound contract was given the go-ahead on the basis of one line email. For me, that doesn't fill me with confidence. Certainly it doesn't explain why the central advice was ignored by the minister.

"That I think, will raise an awful lot more questions and I want to see this email. I want to see the background to the email. And I want to see the paperwork that goes with it.

"Because I simply do not believe that at the last minute before the debate, we have a slam dunk argument from the minister."
He added: "As the bombs are raining down on them, the denial continue."