Ferry inquiry denied at debacle debate

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A demand from the Scottish Conservatives for an independent public inquiry into the growing crisis facing Scotland’s lifeline ferries, which has left many islands without a reliable service, has been voted diown by SNP and Greens MSPs.

Ahead of last Wednesday’s Holyrood debate on the debacle, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron called for an independent public inquiry into the ferry procurement fiasco which had contributed to it.

Mr Cameron said: ‘Just days ago, a former Scottish Government advisor, Luke van Beek, estimated that the two uncompleted ferries at the centre of the procurement crisis could cost the taxpayer as much as £400m – a quite extraordinary amount of money, given they were supposed to cost less that £100m. We absolutely have to get to the bottom of this.

‘Our island communities, which have been so badly let down, deserve to know who is responsible and we need to be reassured the right lessons from this debacle are well and truly learnt.’

But the Scottish Conservatives’ motion, calling for ‘a full public inquiry into the Scottish Government’s failure to renew the ageing ferry network’, as well as £1.4 billion over the next 10 years to bring down the average age of ferries, was voted down.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said the Scottish Government’s conduct would cause anger in many of the island communities that have been so badly affected.

‘Millions of pounds of taxpayers money has been wasted. Ferry delays have increased. Communities have been left without reliable ferries. And still no-one from the Scottish Government takes responsibility,’ he said.

‘The public has the right to know who made the decisions to ignore professional advice when it came to the procurement of new ferries and how it was that the warnings about the condition of the fleet were shrugged off.’

Photograph: MV Glen Sannox under construction at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. No_B29Ferguson01