The price of SNP ministers’ scandal-hit ferry project has risen again by tens of millions of pounds – leaving taxpayers facing a bill of almost £400m.
The two ships, for public company Calmac, were due to cost £97 million and be delivered in 2018, with the delays hitting island communities reliant on a failing fleet.
The latest estimate from the boss of the now nationalized Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow today puts the price at £368.25 million – plus “emergency” expenses of up to £30.6 million.
And after a series of delays, he confirmed that the first ferry – Glen Sannox – is now due for delivery in March 2024, but it remains unclear whether it will be operational by next summer.
The second ship – Glen Rosa – is now scheduled to be completed in May 2025.
The price includes £45m of Scottish Government loans written off before SNP ministers nationalized the struggling shipyard in 2019, as well as £128.25m of contract payments before that date.
David Tydeman, the chief executive of public company Ferguson Marine, outlined the recent cost increases in a letter to Holyrood’s net zero, energy and transport committee.
His latest estimate increased the cost of Glen Sannox by at least £32m and Glen Rosa by £4.8m since September 2022.
There are also new “emergency costs” of up to £12.1 million for the first ship and £18.5 million for the second ship.
Privately run Ferguson Marine was awarded the contract by SNP ministers in 2015 despite being the most expensive of seven bidders and lacking industry-standard financial guarantees.
The saga later sparked claims of “corruption” and a “jobs for the boys” solution, as the Salmond-Sturgeon government had helped save the yard in the run-up to the 2014 Indy vote, with Alex Salmond leading the takeover who supported tycoon Jim McColl He welcomed the court as a sign of how an independent Scotland could thrive.
Ministers and Mr McColl have strongly rejected suggestions that an agreement had been reached that his company would win the government contract if he took over the shipyard.
In May this year, Health Economics Secretary Neil Gray confirmed the Scottish Government would go ahead with the Glen Rosa despite learning it would be cheaper to scrap the ship and put a new one out for tender.
In his letter today, Mr Tydeman said most of the increase over the original budget was due to “wrong decisions” before nationalization, such as “an unconventional construction strategy” and “wrong decisions” after nationalization – but before he joined the company – such as changing contractors and designers sweating an “impossible schedule.”
Scottish Conservative MSP and Shadow Transport Secretary Graham Simpson said: “The SNP’s shambolic handling of the construction of these two new rescue ferries means taxpayers’ money continues to be wasted on a staggering scale.”
“Successive SNP transport ministers have repeatedly betrayed the islanders.
“It’s just a shame that it has been confirmed that they will now have to wait even longer for one of these ships to be delivered, with the 802 ferries now set to be seven years late.”
“Any update from Ferguson Marine means more cost to taxpayers or further disappointment at the endless delays that island communities have suffered.
“The consequences of the ferry fiasco have been devastating for residents and the local economy in the affected areas.”
In 2017, almost £50,000 was spent on Nicola Sturgeon to “launch” the Glen Sannox. However, it later emerged that the ferry was far from finished, the engines were not working and false windows had been painted on the ship’s bridge.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “This latest update is obviously disappointing.”
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“The Scottish Government’s priorities have been and remain completing the two ferries, securing the future of the yard and its workforce and supporting our island communities who rely on this type of vessel every day.
“Ferguson Marine has been asked to do everything possible to minimize costs and ensure these ferries can be brought into service as quickly as possible.”
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