NICOLA Sturgeon has said she has not seen any evidence of criminality in the procurement and construction of two late and over-budget ferries, but she insisted coming to that conclusion was “not my job”.
The Glen Sannox and as-yet-unnamed hull 802 are due to be completed by the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow next year – five years late and at potentially two-and-a-half times the initial cost.
This week, new allegations have surfaced that the yard had sight of a more than 400-page report setting out the technical requirements for the vessels before it was awarded the contract.
According to the BBC, it was given to the yard by a design consultant, something that its former owner, Jim McColl, said would have put them in a “very strong position” to win the contract over the five other bidders.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) rejected claims there had been “preferential treatment” offered to Ferguson Marine given the body’s board voiced its strong opposition to the yard being awarded the contract over the lack of a builder’s refund guarantee.
The auditor general, Stephen Boyle, announced on Wednesday he would look into the procurement process, with the full support of Scotland’s top civil servant, John Paul Marks.
Public Audit Committee convener Richard Leonard, questioning the First Minister at the Conveners’ Group in the Scottish Parliament, asked if she believed there was criminality in the process.
“I’ve got many responsibilities as First Minister – I take each and every one of them very seriously – but I don’t think anybody would say that I should be the arbiter on this or any issue whether there has been criminality,” she said.
“I’ve certainly seen no evidence of that, but it is not my job.
“We have independent authorities that are there to determine these issues on whatever topic it is that we’re speaking about.”
The First Minister has been called to appear before the Public Audit Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the issue, in the coming weeks, something she said: “I’m not sure it is true to say I’m looking forward to that opportunity, but I’m certainly very willing.”