NICOLA Sturgeon has said she has “seen no evidence” of criminality in relation to the CalMac ferries scandal.

The First Minister also told MSPs it was “not my job” to assess whether a crime had been committed and independent authorities decided such things.

She was speaking at a twice-yearly meeting of Holyrood’s committee conveners the day after a BBC investigation suggested the contract for the boats may have been rigged.

The Disclosure programme reported leaked documents indicating the Ferguson Marine yard on the Clyde was given special help to win the £97million bid in 2015.

This included being given access to a technical specification drawn up by state-owned CalMac, which Ferguson’s then copied in large part into its own tender.

This was instrumental in the state-owned ferry procurement body, CMAL, giving Ferguson Marine a winning score against other yards, despite problems with the bid.

The deal ultimately proved a disaster for the yard, with cost overruns and delays causing it to go broke, and it was nationalised by the Scottish Government in 2019.

The two ferries involved are now running five years late and £150m over budget.

Deputy FM John Swinney said the claims raised in the BBC investigation were serious and concerning, and the Auditor General for Scotland is now looking into them. 

On Tuesday, Tory MSP Graham Simpson suggested bringing in the police. 

Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee is currently conducting its own inquiry into the scandal, and Ms Sturgeon is due to appear before it soon to give evidence.

Its convener, the Labour MSP Richard Leonard, asked her today if she had ruled out any criminality in relation to the contract.

She said: “I’ve got many responsibilities as First Minister - I take each and every one of them very seriously – but I don’t think anybody would say that I should be the arbiter on this or any issue whether there has been criminality.

“I’ve certainly seen no evidence of that, but it is not my job.

“We have independent authorities that are there to determine these issues on whatever topic it is that we’re speaking about.”

Referring to her evidence session with the Public Audit Committee, she added: “I’m not sure it is true to say I’m looking forward to that opportunity, but I’m certainly very willing.”