NEARLY £50,000 was spent on staging Nicola Sturgeon's fanfare launch of a new ferry despite ministers knowing there were problems with it being ready for service - while five years on it remains unseaworthy, it can be revealed.

Details of the costs of the ceremony came as tycoon Jim McColl, the former owner of shipyard firm Ferguson Marine said the idea to have the First Minister involved in the launch came from "the government and PR people".

The events surrounding the First Minister's launch event at Ferguson Marine which had been described by critics as "another ferry farce" featured an unfinished vessel which had painted-on windows, 'fake' funnels connected to 'pretend' engines and the incorrect bow fitted.

Ministers have come under increasing pressure over making political decisions to get involved in the running of Ferguson Marine before nationalisation at the end of 2019.

A milestone payment of £1.2m was made to Ferguson Marine the day after the First Minister's fanfare launch of Glen Sannox, one of two ferries that are delayed by over five years with costs rising from £97m to £250m.

A further £1.2m was paid just over two weeks earlier after an inspection of the hull - despite it failing to meet international standards.

It came amidst continued concern that the minister-controlled ferry owners and procurers Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited had become obliged to pay out 85% of the £97m initial price of both the ferry fiasco vessels Glen Sannox and the unnamed Hull 802 to Ferguson Marine in advance despite having serious concerns about its delivery.

It has now been confirmed from Scottish Government records that £47,500 was spent in covering the costs of Nicola Sturgeon's launch, described by Scottish Conservatives as a "razzmatazz photocall" including the provision of the sound address system and hospitality.


The Scottish Government says the event was organised by Ferguson Marine, with "costs covered by the yard".

It has emerged that then transport minister Humza Yousaf, who had attended the ceremony on November 21, 2017, had known there were problems with the ferry being ready to take passengers before the event.

He had been informed by Ferguson Marine, two weeks before the launch, that Glen Sannox would not enter service on the Arran route in the summer of 2018 as scheduled. Shipyard bosses had told him it would not be ready until the winter of 2018/19 - the first of a series of delays.

Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, the former convenor of the rural economy and connectivity committee which branded the ferry management process a "catastrophic failure" said: “It is astounding that £50,000 was wasted on a sham launching ceremony for a vessel that even now is nowhere near finished.

“This is more than just an expensive photo-opportunity for the First Minister too. The official launching of the vessel triggered a further milestone payment which cost the taxpayer another £1.2 million.

“How could this be allowed to happen? Where was the oversight?

“Surely it was obvious enough to see from the vessel’s fake funnels, pretend engines and painted on windows that the construction of this ship was not going to plan.

“As a surveyor with fifteen years’ experience, I am astonished at the apparent lack of checks and controls in this ferry contract.


“The public deserve to know the truth and this is why there must now be a full public inquiry.”

The Scottish Government formed Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Holdings as a takeover vehicle to nationalise the shipyard firm at the end of 2019 after it had fallen into administration while trying to fulfill the disastrous ferry contract.

The collapse of the firm, which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde, in August 2019, came amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries with both CMAL and Ferguson Marine blaming each other for the debacle.

Glen Sannox was presented as the first dual-fuel ship in the UK to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and marine gas oil, and was to sail on the Ardrossan to Arran route for CalMac.

At the launch ceremony, the First Minister, who was joined by Mr Yousaf, said the launch was showing the way forward to the rest of Britain’s shipbuilding industry.

“This launch is also important for the engineering, shipbuilding and manufacturing reputation of the country as a whole, and that makes it a very special part of the Scottish economy overall," she said.

Mr Yousaf said; "Real excitement and very proud that commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde [is] alive and well."

But behind the scenes, the ministers were said to be in "regular contact" with all relevant parties prior to the launch in full updates regarding progress of the build and any impact this would have on delivery - discovered there was a problem.

An official commentary said that Ferguson Marine had written to Mr Yousaf on November 7, two weeks before the launch that the delivery of Glen Sannox for use by passengers would be delayed till winter, 2018/19.


"The then Minister for Transport met with [Ferguson Marine] and CMAL on 3 November 2017 to discuss delivery dates and vessel progress updates," said an official commentary.

"[Ferguson Marine] wrote to the then Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP, on November 7, 2017 confirming that the delivery of the MV Glen Sannox after being launched on 21 November 2017, would be delayed until winter 2018-19."

Before the official launch of the vessel, the bulbous bow, which is an extension of the hull was rejected by Lloyds Register.

A bulbous bow is a protruding bulb at the front of a ship just below the waterline which modifies the way the water flows around the hull.

During inspection, the surveyor deemed that the manufacturing process failed to meet International Association of Classification Society (IACS) construction standards.


The replacement of the bulbous bow has been a crucial part of Glen Sannox’s current programme of remediation work which also has included the installation of deck windows, paint and coating repair, hull cleaning, pipework modification and more.

But Mr McColl has insisted in evidence to MSPs that the launch wasn't "fake" and said the issues around it were a "red herring" and irrelevant to the progress of the ship.

But he said the idea for the ceremony had come from "the government and PR people".

"They knew we were putting that in the water to make way for Hull 802. She [Nicola Sturgeon] wanted to come out and be part of the launch, like she wanted to come out on August 31 [when Ferguson Marine was announced as preferred contract bidder] and stand with the workforce and get a picture taken."

Mr McColl has said that the signing of the controversial contract with Ferguson Marine without mandatory builder's refund guarantees was because the SNP wanted to announce it at a party conference.

He has claimed ministers acted swiftly so the contract could be announced at their autumn conference in October 2015.

CMAL said it wanted to pull out of the contract weeks after the Ferguson Marine was named as the preferred bidder in August, 2015.

The contract for the vessels was awarded a year after Mr McColl stepped in to rescue Ferguson, the last commercial shipyard on the River Clyde.

He has also previously accused the Ms Sturgeon of announcing the contract publicly before a price had been agreed and said that the SNP wanted to make political capital out of it.

He has also said that he believed he was a "pawn" in the Scottish Government's attempts to save the yard and while denying cronyism, that he got the contract due to his connections with previous SNP leader Alex Salmond and that the SNP government favoured the yard, and not him personally.