Scottish Daily Mail
So did disgraced Mackay mislead ferries inquiry?
THE ferries scandal deepened yesterday amid fears that disgraced former transport minister Derek Mackay misled a Holyrood committee.
Evidence has emerged proving he was aware of plans to announce the disastrous ferry contract was being awarded to Ferguson Marine.
Mr Mackay – who quit as finance secretary in shame for pestering a teenage boy with inappropriate texts – had told an official probe he had no idea about the announcement as he was on holiday when thedecision was made.
But this has been undermined after emails were found proving he was involved in writing a press release declaring Ferguson Marine had been picked. The Scottish Government’s transport department has also been condemned for secrecy after it produced the proof of his involvement only after Holyrood’s public audit committee finished its damning report.
Ferguson Marine (FMEL) was awarded a £97million contract to build two ferries but the cost has leapt to an estimated £338million and the vessels are five years late.
In evidence to the committee investigating the debacle last year, Mr Mackay claimed he ‘would not have been given an indication something was about to happen’ when awarding the contract because he had jetted off on holiday. But emails belatedly given to the committee from August 2015 show he wanted changes made to his comments in the news release heralding the contract award.
Committee members had already expressed doubt about the claim in their report, despite the proof only emerging after they had agreed their conclusions.
The report said: ‘It is clear from the information provided by the former Cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities that the former minister for transport and islands was briefed and should have been fully aware before going on annual leave that Transport Scotland intended to seek ministerial approval for the award of the two shipbuilding contracts… to FMEL. The committee is therefore unsure why the former minister told us he had no knowledge before going on annual leave that the preferred bidder would be awarded to FMEL.’
Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: ‘This is no way to treat a parliamentary committee looking into one of the worst scandals of Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office. It raises serious questions about whether a former minister misled the inquiry.’
Committee convener Richard Leonard wrote to interim chief executive of Transport Scotland Michelle Quinn over the failure to provide the information when asked and for ‘hampering’ scrutiny. He said: ‘Had this evidence been made available when requested, it would have informed our report findings on the preferred bidder announcement.’
Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: ‘At every point in this fiasco the SNP Government has chosen cover-up over transparency, spin over honesty and secrecy over accountability. This damning new evidence raises serious questions for Derek Mackay and the entire SNP government.’
‘Chosen spin over honesty’
THE saga of the ferries farrago is a catalogue of evasion and obfuscation.
A Holyrood committee has issued a devastating broadside against Transport Scotland, an SNP Government quango, accusing it of having ‘hampered’ its scrutiny of the contracts.
It gave evidence to MSPs which casts doubt on the testimony of disgraced former Cabinet minister Derek Mackay – but only after the public audit committee had finished a highly critical report.
The new submission suggests that Mr Mackay was aware Transport Scotland intended to get the green light from ministers for the award of the two shipbuilding contracts, and indeed had contributed towards the media announcement while on holiday, contradicting Mr Mackay’s claim that he wasn’t involved at the time.
The fury of MSPs over these belated disclosures is entirely understandable and will be shared by the islanders affected by the huge delays in completing the ferries – and by taxpayers bankrolling this farce.
Earlier this week, the committee condemned Nicola Sturgeon for announcing a preferred bidder too soon, which ‘weakened’ negotiations over the deal.
This shabby episode is a new low for the SNP. Ministers must be held to account for their ocean-going incompetence.