The first in a series of previous articles warning about the impending crisis over how the contracts for the ferries were handled by CMAL. AS READERS WILL KNOW AFTER THE DISCLOSURE PROGRAMME ON BBC last night a serious investigation is now certain to happen. It could and should have been avoided. It was clear a long time ago that something was seriously wrong. The warning was there when it became public a rival bid was ruled out through a “ supposed mistake” by CMAL staff in the presentation of the bid from Dr Stuart Ballantyne. But neither CMAL or the Scottish Government did anything. This article was first published last May but I have more articles going back much further.

The Pentalina ferry that serves Orkney.

A week or so ago I reported on this site that Jim Sillars had written to Scottish Police requesting they carry out an investigation into the “missing” documentation into the Ferry Fiasco.

No sooner had my feet touched earth back home in Scotland and miracle of miracles “some” of the documentation was found in the form of emails. My first point is that contracts worth way over £150 million do not rely on emails to register the decision. They are formally recorded and proper contracts are drawn up. There are, as Jim Sillars pointed out to Police Scotland well established legal requirements to do so. When potentially hundreds of millions of taxpayers money are involved, the Scottish Government must follow those procedures.

I quote from Jim’s statement “There are three Acts of the Scottish Parliament which place a solemn duty on accountable officials and ministers to minute key decisions, and to safely store the documents recording who was there, the subject matter, and the decisions taken.  It is inconceivable that was not done by a professional civil service and ministers with long service in government. Indeed the First Minister confirms that there was a written record taken. 

Jim went on “Where are the documents?  Who was responsible for placing them in the records?  Who failed to do so? Did they fail to do so? Were they destroyed?  Why, among all the documents relevant to this fiasco are these ones, the key ones about who made the contract decision, not to be found?

So a partial discovery is not good enough, not nearly good enough. This has giant cover up written all over it.

I don’t have a lot of time for Douglas Ross but even he scored points at FMQ’s even though he missed the best opportunity to really take a bite out the First Minister. The email that was “discovered” and handily put all the blame on Derek Mackay was heavily redacted to disguise the clear involvement of John SWINNEY in the decision. Now you would think that a Government that had huge experience of redaction would be quite proficient at it. They had loads of practice as they worked overtime during the Salmond Enquiry to disguise and hide enormous amounts of dubious practice but now even Douglas Ross using simple cut and paste techniques was able to uncover the redacted sections. Like the entire ferry debacle even the cover up is littered with amateur failure.

There are still documents missing, we have a partial picture, nothing like the full story. The Sturgeon Cover Up Government continues to hide and conceal. Websites like this will continue to pursue and uncover on behalf of the hard pressed taxpayer.

Now in contrast to the sorry tale of the CMAL and Scottish Government failure I had the pleasure to attend an excellent presentation at the Innovation Centre of Strathclyde University of the comparisons between modern Catamaran designs for Ferries that offer much superior service performance at much lower capital and operating costs that the Ferries that the SG have ordered.

The presentations came from Dr Stuart Ballantyne, a Scot based in Australia who is internationally recognised as a world leading ship designer of ferries, Professor Alf Baird who until retirement a few years ago was the Professor for Maritime Studies at Napier University, and Professor Dracoss from Strathclyde University who has been involved in developing Stuart’s most recent development, an ingenious unsinkable ferry. Professor Dracoss is a internationally recognised safety expert.

Interest in this presentation was substantial, the room was filled with people and companies with interests in ferries either as providers or consumers of the final product. Nor was interest limited to Scotland, zoom links allowed another forty people, in countries all round the World, to view these latest developments.

Stuart has offered his designs free to the Scottish Government if they are interested in trying to rebuild a competitive shipbuilding industry in Scotland. His designs are used extensively all over the World and have a track record of excellent delivery. Because of the lower cost, greater speed of these ferries his designs could provide a much superior service to the Scottish Islands. He argues they could provide a much improved, more frequent ferry service rather than the one or two sailings a day currently on offer. This would have a dramatic impact for the better especially for island tourism and business.

It is tragic his designs were not considered properly by the committee due to a blunder by who? Another mystery as yet unsolved ,when Stuart’s proposal was being considered an “error” in supplying the correct information to the committee in providing a comparison with CMAL’s monohull design allowed his designs to be discounted. While the SG and CMAL accept the error was made nobody has taken responsibility or explained how it could possibly have happened.

This is not going to go away, instead of supplying our island communities with a much improved service, at much lower cost to the taxpayer, operating costs would also be a fraction of CMAL’s outdated designs we have also, so far, lost the opportunity to regenerate a shipbuilding industry, building very competitive ferries that are in demand not only in Scotland but all over the World. 

Instead we have opted to build outdated, inefficient ferries in Turkey that even if they arrive on the planned timescale will arrive years late and at more than double the capital cost, near enough double the operating cost of a catamaran design, and that also require tens of millions of improvement works at ports to allow these outdated ships to dock.

It is a very sad story that still has the potential to get worse. A huge missed opportunity which even now could be rescued if only those responsible for these mistakes would accept that they are mistakes and change course before they lumber our islands and taxpayers for the next twenty five years with the wrong ferries.

That is the best way forward. The alternative is to spend money on training staff on redaction and concealment and hope that works better next time. Without big changes there will certainly be a next time, perhaps lots of them.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland


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21 thoughts on “FERRY INTERESTING!

  1. It’s not often I would agree with the headline in the “Scottish” Daily Mail but today they sadly got it right in calling for the police to get involved. I was involved in local authority procurement for fifteen years. It is hard to believe that this financial fiasco is the result of simple incompetence. It would appear the SG / CMAL / Cal Mac have broken every basic principal of procurement law and good practice.

    I have lost track of the current costs of the two ferries but I seem to think it might currently be near £300 million. When you actually look at them they are not exactly the QE2 in size or luxury. You simply have to wonder into which pockets the bulk of the £300 million has gone.

    I understand there was a SG desire to save the yard but it seems it was done at enormous cost. This is money which could have been better directed to the SNHS.

    Sadly the saga is not over. It remains to be seen if the ferries can actually provide a reliable service to the islands and then there is the problem of where and how they will dock when they get there.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. SNP HQ busy looking for an appropriate head to offer the media at the moment. You can be certain it will not be Sturgeon or the inner Cabal. It has to be someone of suitable seniority and weight. Given Sturgeon’s past demonstrations of using events to further cement her position she will grab this “opportunity”.
    We seen a glimpse of the likely fall guy last night…
    John Swinney will be the head offered and Angus Robertson will become deputy GOD…I mean FM.

    This of course will not help the Islanders one bit but that isn’t what is important….”We must protect the glorious one”

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Enquiry alert.
      I forgot to mention the enquiry. An enquiry is essential for long grass kicking. There will be a long and protracted enquiry and of course the Ferry operators and the various wasteful limbs will have a seat shuffle in 5 years time

      Liked by 10 people

  3. I wonder if they were told to give the contracts to Turkiye? I also wonder why the BBC are now suddenly good when they are reporting about the things that we know that the government have gotten wrong but complain about it being British Broadcasting propaganda any other time? If we as a country perhaps were trying to make friendships with other countries thinking in terms of being independent it’s not the right way to do it by awarding a contract to Turkiye when we have the facilities and capabilities as well as at a lower cost. Just as we wouldn’t expect Turkiye to give contracts to another country at the expense of their own country.


    1. Turkiye is no longer called Turkey they don’t use the term Turkey for their country any longer. Turkiye had a contract that didn’t allow for them to make certain things and trade etc however I think that the contract is either finished or about to. There’s a bigger picture here on why I think that they gave them to there.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. What you do is or I would have done is put our country first and perhaps something that Turkiye has that we don’t or don’t have the capability to make seek a contract or trade and by the way the beautiful workmanship on the gulets (wooden ships) I have watched some of them being crafted and is a reminder that the people there have retained the skills of the past, even down to their jewellery most stores have a workshop and they alter on site In their shops if you buy trousers or a dress that don’t fit they measure there and then take it to the tailors all included in the price of your item and within an hour or so you get them perfectly fitting. Point is that Turkiye do hold on to their trades and skills. It’s a good example of old and new perfectly blended unlike our country who have let our traditions and trades slide.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Or basically they were closed down on purpose and a lot of people left to seek work in other countries. This is the truth and we can’t pretend otherwise. We have a lot of ill health, poverty and social issues that are a symptom of not being our own country and yes I think that the Scottish government might have done things that are not in our best interests however the problem for us is we are having to deal with two governments and there’s nae real justice anywhere either in Scotland or the rest of the UK for any of it.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Wonder if they could have adapted the old designs for the Waverly.

    Ferries like that (for people not cars) were still going strong in Hong Kong back when it became a Special Administrative Region of China – and that despite small fortunes being spent on Australian jetty designs that didn’t allow for berthing loads.. ie total absence of bracing meant the new ferry piers had a tendency to sway up to 2m every time a boat came in (especially during typhoon season) so not so impossible/ unreasonable that any designs from Australia had a negative (ie what do they know about surf anyway) weighting/ prejudice from decision makers dating back decades.

    That said, and setting aside in retrospect whether bullets were dodged by keeping Australia out the equation (eg their government’s recently discovered lack of respect for Djokovic/ a far more significant (sub)marine contract with France), I thought most of the technical problems (before the document discoverers got involved) were related to the (obligatory?) dual fuel system – in which case presumably the yard and (oddly) the politicians would have gotten stick for the Catamarin contract getting into similar difficulties regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While this Ferry stuff is unfortunate, and mistakes have been made, we take note, the tories are not demanding any Police investigation into the 10s of billions Boris Johnson gave away for useless PPE medical supplies, the past few years!
    And we do know that was criminal, not mere mistakes.
    So we want to hear from MSP D.Ross & Co, why, if he thinks there should be a Police inquiry here, over a relatively smallish sum, in the grand scheme of things, there shouldn’t be similar for the 30 plus billions, most of which went to tory donors, and politicians?

    As for Fergusons, a lot of the problems came from design changes being ordered halfway thru the building process.
    They should have stuck to the original plans, and the things would have been in service ages ago.
    And also, would folks want to see this last yard on the lower Clyde, close?
    I bet the tories would sure love that.
    After all, its reported tories bought up all the shutterd yards and docks down Inverclyde. Then had the entire infrastructure demolished, and the area left with next to nothing!
    So guess, they’d want this bit of it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you in regards to the Tories and Westminster government in regards to the Corona virus scandals and profiteering. Why have their been nae BBC exposure of their dirty antics? You know that they are doing everything to destroy the independence movement. The cash for peerage and everything that you mentioned.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Gordon this is not a tit for tat situation. My position is I would want police enquiries into both. We will never convince people to vote for 8ndependence if we develop a convenient blind eye when it is our people at fault. Being honest and open is the route that wins respects and convinces people independence is worthwhile.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Ian I agree however I don’t think that we can slate the BBC one minute then think it’s the bees knees for reporting on the Scottish government just as it aligns with suitability because like you said it’s one of they one’s, it’s either the British Broadcasting Corporation or it isnae? I don’t even watch TV anymair and I won’t be watching this either but I do think that we need independence as a matter of urgency and then of course we can with the right people hold our government accountable for any wrong doing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would agree with those points you make, Iain.
        However, my main aim above was to expose the utterly outrageous double standards of the likes of MP/MSP Ross, and they should be challenged on that.

        Regards Ferries in Scotland more generally, it is in a deplorable situation with cancellations due to mechanical faults happening all over the place, and way too often.
        Had we been Independent, some of those ferries wouldn’t be needed as we could have tunnels and bridges, etc.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. Here is a letter I sent earlier! I did get a reply of sorts but it did not address many of the points I raised. I may send it again. My reference to the role of the RMT refers to their defence of the traditional ferries which require large numbers of crew, including unnecessary catering staff, as well as being unsuitable for the job they do.

    Dear Ms Sturgeon,

    I refer you to the letter from Dr Stuart Ballantyne, Chairman of Sea Transport Solutions to Ms K. Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance dated 25th February 2021 and to the Independent Members Report on the now defunct Scottish Ministers Ferry Industry Advisory Group.

    Taken together these documents provide a devastating indictment of the incompetence, muddled thinking and self-interest prevailing in the management of Ferry provision under Cmal and CalMac.
    I have known of Dr Ballantyne’s designs for some years having travelled on Norwegian ferries and admired their efficiency. This was without knowing that the cost of these ferries was much lower than the ferries in use in Scotland.

    There are actually so many points that I would like to raise regarding the debacle that is the current situation with Ferry provision in Scotland under Cmal that I really do not know where to begin. I will simply say that to have such expertise available and to ignore it as detailed in the Independent Members Report is unacceptable and unforgivable.

    As a lifelong Independence supporter I cannot express how dismayed I am at the way the current project in particular and the whole Ferry situation in general has been handled. As you said yourself, Ms Sturgeon, the buck stops with you and you must undertake a root and branch reorganisation of the Ferry provision in order to take control out of the hands of parties with vested interests in continuing the inefficient and criminally expensive methods in use now. Ferries must be provided and run for the benefit of the Island communities in particular and more widely Scotland rather than for the benefit of Cmal and the RMT.

    Scotland deserves better, Ms Sturgeon, and Scotland can do better but whether under your leadership or of someone else willing to sort this problem out remains to be seen.

    Yours sincerely

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was the ferries on offer better than the one’s on order or is it possible that people are upset that their models were not picked? Just to sit in the middle because obviously it’s not a crime to go with a contract unless you can prove that there’s crime involved. I read that the Scottish government and the Scottish politicians are the shareholders in Calmac and I assume by this they mean holding for public rather than personal?


      1. Sometimes people who are in trades and professions are making a pitch and they might feel undermined and cheated because they believed that their’s were the better product and someone else won the bid, which they say are eco friendly and greener and they provide vessels for Norway, Ireland and Germany as well as Denmark. Just checking because I do understand that people can feel hurt and cheated which is okay to feel however, it’s something that we who believe in being our own country feel every day.


  7. “It is a very sad story that still has the potential to get worse. A huge missed opportunity which even now could be rescued if only those responsible for these mistakes would accept that they are mistakes and change course before they lumber our islands and taxpayers for the next twenty five years with the wrong ferries.”

    I have always considered that in both personal and working life you can only improve if you admit to your mistakes. It is only by recognising and understanding our errors that we can make things better and become a better person. Unfortunately, today’s politicians are unable to own up to their mistakes or admit that they could in any way be fallible. As such, they are unable to makes things better and, rather than rectify their mistakes, they are willing to allow the tragic consequences to unfold before ever admitting they were wrong.

    Liked by 3 people

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