Ferry Fiasco Explained – Scotsman Article – 31 March 2022


Until we can get a Public inquiry into the ferries debacle let me lay out what I gleam happened and why blame firmly rests with CMAL and the Scottish Government not Ferguson Yard or Jim McColl. 

Vessels 801 and 802 were the wrong type of ships and weren’t wanted by Cal Mac let alone the communities they’re to serve. Dual fuel LNG/Marine diesel was an absurd choice in a ship of this size.  But CMAL insisted and design problems plagued the ships ever after.  

The Scottish Government then compounded matters by insisting the work be given to Fergusons before the terms of the contract were agreed. A cursory check of timelines shows truncated decision making to allow for a fanfare announcement at Nicola Sturgeons first SNP conference as First Minister. That not only meant the price agreed couldn’t possibly match the work required but just what work was required remained open to interpretation and change.  

CMALs relationship with Fergusons broke down as plans were chopped and changed. The Government refused to draw CMAL to heel or fund additional costs that Fergusons required. The CMAL board threatened to resign en masse if the government intervened. And whilst that action would have doubtless been cheered to the rafters in island communities, the Scottish Government baulked at being exposed by the outgoing board for their initial instructions.  

The Yard then went into administration and the Scottish Government nationalised it. A turnaround director was put in at significant costs but little has changed. These are simply the wrong vessels and the plans for them are flawed. Just when they’ll sail if they ever will, is open to question.     

Now let me also say that I agree that the contracts should have gone to Fergusons as indeed I believe future Cal Mac vessels should be getting built there. The yard has the skills and our communities not Turkey should be getting the work. But the right sort of ships and CMAL should be abolished with Scottish Ministers taking steps to get the yard run by folk who know what they’re doing. Perhaps, come back Jim McColl!