A ROW has erupted over Scottish Government transparency as it emerged the Ferguson Marine ferry fiasco fixer was actually paid £252,701 more than was divulged.

Ministers had at the end of June refused to answer wide-ranging questions relating to the cost of Tim Hair, the turnaround director of the nationalised shipyard company under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 which was meant to give the public much greater access to information held by the authorities - particularly over how taxpayers' money is spent.

The Scottish Government dismissed the questions saying that while they they own Ferguson Marine they are "not however responsible for day to day operational matters such as recruitment and human resources functions. These are a matter for the yard's management."

However 40 days later the Scottish Government decided to divulge answers to questions about the fees.

And it emerged that Mr Hair, who had been brought in to fix the issues at Ferguson Marine, the owners of the last civilian Clyde shipyard had been paid £1,263,564 for 454 days work.

The shipyard company has since been defending the £2,783-a-day pay of its turnaround director.

But Ferguson Marine figures seen by The Herald show that the Scottish Government did not include a further £252,702 of payments to Mr Hair to cover VAT.

It means that Mr Hair’s invoiced fees, including expenses and VAT  in the near two years between August, 2019 and July, 2021 were actually £1,516,266.

READ MORE: Ministers' Ferguson Marine ferry fiasco fixer is paid £1.3m over nearly two years

His over £750,000-a-year payments tower over the £160,000-a-year salary of the First Minister.

Senior Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny now a senior figure in the pro-independence Alba Party said the Scottish Government's original response was "astonishing" and was concerned that the financial details published "don't marry up".

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He said: "The transparency is appalling.

"It is a great concern that the government concealed and delayed the information about just how much he is being paid, but it’s even more  alarming to learn that ministers don’t even know what’s going on at the yard and are taking no direct political ownership of turning it around," he said.

"Instead of creating the potential for thousands of new jobs, the Scottish Government are hiding behind UK Government red tape. We need a proper leadership team installed at the yard and the guarantee of years of work given to it."

Mr McEleny who had made the original request to the Scottish Government that was turned down, has now asked for officials to review their responses.

He told them: "It is inconceivable that your response to me saying you did not hold the information requested has adhered to your legal responsibilities when in fact you were able to release the information later to another request.

READ MORE: Ministers under fire as fears grow over collapse of Scots ferry fiasco firm

"Can you please confirm why the Government informed me that it did not possess the information that I requested when indeed the government did possess the information. For what reason did the Government make the decision to suppress the publication of the amount of days Mr Hair has been in the role of Turnaround Director and the seven figure sum he has received from the taxpayer?

"If I do not receive a satisfactory response I will refer the matter to the Scottish Information Commissioner."

The Scottish Government had previously said that Mr Hair's net cost of £2000 per day after income tax and national insurance deductions "was in the middle of the industry norm".

And a Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) board spokesman said: "The role of a turnaround director requires specialised skills and experience to transform businesses that are in serious distress. The appointment was made following a rigorous selection process, which included a third party benchmarking exercise to assess current market rates for this type of specialist role. The agreed fee rate is well within this scale and reflective of market rates.

“The turnaround director has a remit to stabilise the shipyard business and transform it into a successful, competitive business and retain shipyard skills and jobs in the Port Glasgow area."

According to ministers, Mr Hair's contract was for an initial period of two to three months with the option to roll forward on a monthly basis but with a four week notice period.

Mr Hair, a Gloucestershire-based businessman and the former chief of engineering firm Chamberlain, was handed the deal by ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay two years ago.

He was brought in after Ferguson Marine under tycoon Jim McColl went into administration following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd - the taxpayer-funded company which buys and leases publicly owned CalMac's ships on behalf of the Scottish government - and as the price of the construction of two lifeline ferries under a £97m fixed price contract more than doubled.

Ferguson Marine's financial collapse in August, 2019 led to a state takeover, while the delivery of two lifeline island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 which were due online in the first half of 2018 will be over four years late.

Mr McColl went on to blame repeated design changes by CMAL for the issues in building the vessels for operator CalMac, which is also publicly-owned.

Earlier this year it emerged that Ferguson Marine had racked up £100m of losses in just four months of nationalisation.

Ministers say that six potential candidates for the turnaround director role were approached, and that senior officials interviewed three candidates by phone.

They say that they concluded that Tim Hair, who operates through his own service company Melville Management Ltd, "had the requisite skills and experience to perform the role".

The Scottish Government has pumped over £17m into the business during the four months to March 2020 – including £10m into the construction of the two ferries.

Scotland's public finance watchdog is currently probing claims of a misuse of public funds in relation to the controversial takeover which is being looked at alongside the awarding of £45m of taxpayers-funded loans from the Scottish Government to Ferguson Marine before it collapsed.

The Scottish Government is still owed over £40m from the collapse of Ferguson Marine having used £7.5m of what they were owed through the loans to buy the business.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It was a procedural decision for Ferguson Marine to deal with Mr McEleny’s FOI as it contained a number of questions relating to the yard’s operations and Turnaround Director. It is standard practice for public bodies to respond to FOIs relating to operational matters.”