THE deputy first minister has described £87,000 bonuses to Ferguson Marine board members in the wake of a failure to complete long delayed lifeline ferries as "reprehensible".

It comes after Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross told the First Minister that it was "unacceptable" the money had not been cleared by the Scottish Government and said managers at Ferguson should return the cash.

John Swinney spoke out amidst the growing disquiet performance bonus payments made to senior Ferguson Marine managers during 2021/22 while delivery of two lifeline ferries remains delayed.

He said new arrangements have been put in place at his request to ensure such an eventuality does not arise in the future.

Audit Scotland raised concerns over the bonus payments saying it is "not clear" how their performance was assessed, nor were appropriate frameworks and governance in place.

Mr Boyle said Ferguson Marine should have sought Scottish Government approval for the payments.

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Mr Swinney in the face of criticism over continued delays and soaring costs of the two ferries still to be completed at the nationalised Ferguson Marine shipyard said: "I think the bonuses are reprehensible. The government didn't know about them, the government found out about them as a consequence of the audit work. We were never consulted about them. And we should have been consulted about them.

"We are assessing what actions we can take in that respect."

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Earlier Ms Sturgeon in response to Mr Ross in First Minister's Questions accepted the criticism from Audit Scotland that the bonuses were unacceptable.

“We can assure parliament that new arrangements have been put in place at the deputy first minister’s request to ensure that doesn’t arise in future,” she said.

She added: “I have said many times, and will say again, we deeply regret the delays to the completion of the ferries and the cost overruns.”

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Mr Ross said: “The auditor general is clear that these bonuses were unacceptable. His words.

“We think they’re downright scandalous. It’s unacceptable. It’s a bonus for failure and this failure is all on the SNP government.

The senior management team employed in 2019, when Ferguson Marine came into public ownership, held employment contracts containing a clause entitling them to a performance related bonus of up to 20% of their base salary.

However, there was no performance management framework of key performance indicators (KPIs) which set out how performance would be assessed or measured.

Payment was approved based on a paper prepared by the former turnaround director Tim Hair in February 2022.

This recommended that 7.5% should be paid on the delivery of milestones.

The remaining 10% paid was discretionary based on performance.


There had previously been concern over the "severe mismanagement" of the shipyard partly due to the £2565-a-day being given to Mr Hair a Gloucester-based businessman, in a deal established by ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay.

Mr Hair, who had led the business since August 2019 and implemented a major transformation programme, departed in February last year following a short handover period.

Ferguson Marine had since appointed David Tydeman as its new chief executive officer to lead the business to "sustainable growth".