The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity came under serious questioning for the reasons behind a £21.9 million loan to CMAL, a Scottish Government agency which owns passenger ferries, ports and harbours, as part of the draft Scottish Budget for 2021/22.
Edward Mountain MSP has said the Cabinet Secretary’s lack of explanation for the loan raises yet more questions about the Scottish Government’s financing and management of ferry procurement.
In December 2020, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee published a damning report following their inquiry into ferry procurement and construction in Scotland, branding the management process a “catastrophic failure”.
The Committee went on to recommend a root and branch overhaul of the way ferries are procured in Scotland.
During a session of the REC Committee, Edward Mountain MSP pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity on funding for ferries for the next financial year.
Edward Mountain MSP asked: “On CMAL, voted loans for 21/22 are £21.9 million. How much of that is going to Ferguson Marine for the construction of Glen Sannox and 802?
The Cabinet Secretary replied: “In relation to the £21.9 million of voted loans, it is not anticipated that any of that will be going to pay for Ferguson Marine for the construction of the two vessels.”
Edward Mountain MSP then asked: “Could you tell me what it is going for Cabinet Secretary?”
The Cabinet Secretary replied: “The £21.9 million is for ongoing works that will be taken forward by CMAL for other activities, that they are taking forward.”
Edward Mountain MSP pressed again: “I’m not being difficult Cabinet Secretary but £21.9 million is a lot of money and you are saying its going on ongoing expenditure, could you tell me what that ongoing expenditure is please?”
The Cabinet Secretary said: “I don’t have that information to hand but I am more than happy to come back to the Committee with details on that.”
Edward Mountain MSP said: “Okay, thank you, seems a lot of money with no explanation.”
Following the session, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“Providing for a £21.9 million loan without as much as an explanation will raise eyebrows and yet more questions about the Scottish Government’s management of Scotland’s ferries.
“The cost of the two ferries has already risen from £97 million to an eye-watering £200 million, and our island communities are still waiting for them to be delivered.
The Cabinet Secretary needs to urgently clarify how this £21.9 million will be used by CMAL.”