To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to investigate the financing of the CalMac vessel, MV Loch Seaforth, which is now owned by Lloyds Banking Group, after a lease deal was agreed at a reported cost to the public purse of £53 million. (S5O-02324)
The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands (Paul Wheelhouse):
A full tender process for a lease arrangement was undertaken by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd in line with European Union procurement rules. That resulted in the award of the contract to Lloyds Banking Group as its tender was assessed as the most economically advantageous.
Audit Scotland published its report to Parliament, “Transport Scotland’s ferry services”, in October 2017. It included comment on the MV Loch Seaforth procurement, but having concluded its analysis of this and other procurement decisions, Audit Scotland did not raise anything of concern regarding the procurement of the MV Loch Seaforth. The Scottish Government therefore has no plans to investigate the financing of the MV Loch Seaforth.
That is truly disappointing. It is shocking that the boat will require to be handed back as new in 2022 or have a new lease negotiated.
It is also not clear when the two ferries that have been further delayed will come into service, if ever.
These revelations follow a summer of chaos in the Western Isles and Argyll that is on-going because of inadequate ferries and no capacity in the fleet to deal with breakdowns.
That is costing the islands’ economies dear and the Government has simply turned a blind eye. Instead of taking money from CalMac, will the minister now invest in a new ferry?
It is disappointing to hear Rhoda Grant’s lack of recognition of the £1 billion that the Government has invested in the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services since 2007.
I acknowledge that there is great concern in the islands around assuring the resilience of the ferry services and I am happy to engage on that issue with members across the chamber. However, I would have hoped that Rhoda Grant, in framing her question, might have recognised that we are commissioning new ferries from Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd. A revised delivery programme has been discussed by Ferguson Marine and CMAL and Parliament was informed of the dates on 16 August 2018.
In recognition of the importance of the issue, the Government has invested in ferries, as I have said, and in harbour facilities across routes in the area. We continue to invest in ferry services. I hope that Rhoda Grant will acknowledge that.