Ferries

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th September 2021.

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Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

3.

To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with Ferguson Marine regarding the building of vessels for Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd. (S6O-00143)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I visited the yard and spoke directly to workers on 25 August. I also regularly meet the chair and turnaround director to monitor progress, most recently on 17 August. I will meet the full board at the yard on 23 September.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

As the cabinet secretary will know, I am not just the local MSP; I grew up in the town and my father worked for the yard before he passed away. I am a huge supporter of the workforce and the yard, and its future is bigger than one person.

After yesterday’s news about the two Islay vessels, which was uncomfortable but not unexpected, will the cabinet secretary instigate a change of management at the yard to ensure that the men and women of Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd have a future, and will she agree to meet me to discuss the future of the yard?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

I certainly agree to meet Stuart McMillan and I agree with his sentiment about how important it is to ensure a long-term future for the yard. I emphasise that all our actions and decisions must be to ensure that the vessels are completed and that the yard has a long-term future. I weigh up all decisions within my own powers on that basis.

Leadership matters, and I am closely monitoring progress at the yard through the board, which, ultimately, oversees operational matters and holds management accountable for performance. As I said, I will meet the board next week. I have been crystal clear with the board’s management that I expect—no ifs, no buts—the two vessels to be completed and the yard to get into a position to compete successfully for tenders.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

When is the turnaround director going to turn anything around at the yard, and when is somebody’s head going to roll over this shambles?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

On the basis of recent progress, we need to ensure that the two priorities that I just outlined are met. The first is that the two vessels are completed. We have seen progress at the yard, but we still need to get the two vessels over the line. As I mentioned in my previous answer, having most recently visited the yard at the end of August and spoken directly to workers, I am confident that progress is being made.

The second priority is about future opportunities. The yard has two substantial vessels to complete. The new order is not for the last CMAL vessel; in fact, it is the first procurement of £580 million of investment over the next five years to bring new vessels into service, including up to seven new ships under phase 1 of the small vessel replacement programme. Although, in line with normal procurement rules, we have no role, we want to ensure that the yard is in a position to compete successfully for those tenders on an international basis.

Photo of Neil Bibby Neil Bibby Labour

The Government’s announcement yesterday was a hammer blow for Scottish shipbuilding. It is about time that ministers took responsibility for the Scottish National Party’s on-going ferries fiasco. Turning around Ferguson’s means no more delays to current contracts and filling the order book again. Will the cabinet secretary confirm that she will rule out any further delays to MV Glen Sannox and hull 802—yes or no? Were existing delays a factor in Ferguson’s not making the short list? Will she publish the assessment criteria? Given public concern, will she suspend the process and consider again making a direct award to the yard?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

There were a lot of questions in there and I might not get through all of them.

On one of the questions, on behalf of island communities, we should recognise that yesterday’s announcement regarding two new vessels for ferry routes was important and welcome. We know—I certainly do, given that I represent island communities that rely on lifeline ferries—just how important it is to ensure that there are new ferries on those lifeline services.

On the other questions, I monitor the process closely through the board, which I meet regularly. I have been crystal clear that we expect the two vessels to be delivered and for the yard to be in a position to compete. The turnaround director will update the committee at the end of September, as previously set out.