TIMELINE OF INCOMPETENCE
Ferry fiasco timeline concerning what happened, when & who was involved
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Previously I wrote a piece seeking to summarise the evolving ferry fiasco, which you can read here. I recommend doing so before proceeding with this article, which assumes the necessary general knowledge of the unfolding SNP ferry fiasco.
Timeline of events which are verified:
The junior minister of Transport & Islands Derek MacKay was ‘on leave’ in August. His superior at the time was Keith Brown , Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs. An internal document sent to Keith Brown on August 20, 2015 states: “In the absence of the Minister for Transport and Islands on leave, your approval is sought for CMAL to award shipbuilding contracts of a total cost of £96m for 2 new major ferries for the CHFS network to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL).”1
In August the Scottish Government announces Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) as the preferred bidder for the £97 million fixed price contract to design and build the two vessels.
Nicola Sturgeon does so personally, tweeting on August 31 2015 “Ferguson Marine yard favourite for £97m ferry contract.
Nicola Sturgeon also around this time period releases a press statement reading:
“This is an excellent result for Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited and I am delighted to name them as preferred tenderer for the contract to build two new ferries, the largest commercial vessels to be built on the Clyde since 2001.”2
It is also a fact that the Deputy First Minister (DFM), and at the time Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy John Swinney “approved the financial implications of the contract award prior to the announcement by the FM (First Minister) on 31 August that FMEL were the “preferred bidder””3
FMEL confirms it is unable to provide Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) with a full refund guarantee, which was one of the mandatory requirements of the contract.
CMAL advises Transport Scotland of the significant risks of awarding the contract to FMEL, and states its preference is to start the procurement process again4
Transport Scotland advises CMAL that Scottish ministers are aware of the risks and are content for CMAL to award the contract to FMEL.5
CMAL awards FMEL the contract to design and build the new vessels, known as Hull 801 and Hull 802, at a combined fixed price of £97 million. Completion expected May & July 2018 respectively.
CMAL advises the Project Steering Group (PSG) that FMEL has failed to meet some of its contract deliverables
Nicola Sturgeon personally oversees the ‘launch’ of the Glen Sannox, which was in an incomplete state with painted on windows. It to this day is still not in service.
What does that all mean? Interpreting the facts:
It is factually untrue to claim or imply key decisions all rest with the junior minister for Transport & Islands at the time Derek MacKay. Fact: he was absent in August and his superior Keith Brown MSP’s decision was sought regarding whether or not to proceed.
Furthermore, in August both the First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon) and Deputy First Minister (John Swinney) were involved in the process. The DFM personally signed off in August on the financial implications.
By September FMEL confirms it cannot satisfy the need for a full taxpayer refund guarantee.
Given the First Minister and Deputy First Minister were fully involved in August in the procurement process, why would they not have remained involved in September? Assuming they did their jobs they must have both known FMEL could not satisfy the mandatory requirement for contract by September 2015.
If they did not know, then that in of itself represents a major failure of competency. If John Swinney as finance secretary was unaware that he had signed off on the financial risks of a procurement bid lacking full refund guarantee for taxpayers, then he is incompetent and should resign of this alone. Assuming he is not that grotesquely incompetent, then John Swinney must have known FMEL could not satisfy mandatory conditions for contract by September 2015.
From this point on, we can justifiably establish that the Scottish Government became fully aware that the publicly announced preferred bidder could not satisfy a mandatory requirement for contract by September 2015. This includes Nicola Sturgeon and DFM John Swinney (remember, finance secretary at the time) and Keith Brown (Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs).
In September Ministers involved in this procurement process ignore CMAL recommendation to return the entire issue back out to procurement process due to the inability of FMEL to satisfy a full refund guarantee. According to Audit Scotland, this decision meant the Scottish Government ministers involved were knowingly content to go forward with a contract which did not provide suitable protection for taxpayers.
“As a full refund guarantee was not in place for the 801/802 contract, some of the risk was transferred from FMEL to CMAL and meant that the contract was not effective when problems emerged.”6
By October we know for a fact that “that Scottish ministers are aware of the risks and are content for CMAL to award the contract to FMEL”. In plain English this is saying that Scottish ministers involved in this procurement process by October know that FMEL cannot satisfy key condition for the contract (a full taxpayer refund guarantee); but wish to proceed regardless.
As early as December, the ferry fiasco begins unfolding. Taxpayers are left with no full refund guarantee to protect them, due to decisions made by the ministers involved namely Keith Brown, Derek MacKay, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon.
It is a fact that the First Minister remained personally aware of the ferry procurement process. For example she personally ‘launches’ an incomplete ferry in November 21st 2017. She must have known at that time the ferry she was launching was incomplete. She must have seen the painted on windows, and must be aware to this date that it is still not in service. This establishes that by 2017 the First Minister remained connected to the ferry fiasco. Unless we are supposed to believe that she knew everything in August 2015, then stopped all involvement until November 2017; and even then never once requested a briefing about anything. Simply not credible.
What was supposed to cost £97m fixed price has by today cost taxpayers £240m. The two ferries remain incomplete. Costs continue to spiral upward. Islanders are left to go whistle. The Scottish Government continues to refuse to permit a full independent public inquiry into events.
Watson, Rachel (2022, March 25), ‘FERRY SCANDAL SNP cabinet chief Keith Brown in the spotlight over doomed Ferguson shipyard scandal’, Scottish Sun, https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/scottish-news/8621739/keith-brown-in-spotlight-ferguson-shipyard-scandal/ | Read the document obtained by the Scottish Sun for yourself here: https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/transparency-data/2019/12/ferguson-marine-key-documents-2015/documents/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-recommending-contract-award-20-august-2015/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-recommending-contract-award-20-august-2015/govscot%3Adocument/Ferguson%2BMarine-%2Bsubmission%2Bto%2Bministers%2Brecommending%2Bcontract%2Baward%2B-%2B20%2BAugust%2B2015.pdf
Scottish Government document publication, ‘Key Documents’, https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/transparency-data/2019/12/ferguson-marine-key-documents-2015/documents/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-requesting-approval-of-cmal-contract-award---7-october-2015/ferguson-marine-submission-to-ministers-requesting-approval-of-cmal-contract-award---7-october-2015/govscot%3Adocument/Ferguson%2BMarine%2B---%2Bsubmission%2Bto%2Bministers%2Brequesting%2Bapproval%2Bof%2BCMAL%2Bcontract%2Baward%2B-%2B7%2BOctober%2B2015.pdf
Auditor General, (2022 March), ‘New vessels for the Clyde and Hebrides Arrangements to deliver vessels 801 and 802’, Audit Scotland, pg 11, https://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/uploads/docs/report/2022/nr_220323_vessels.pdf
Ibid, pg 11
Ibid, pg 4