Island ferry replacements are six years late and 5 times cost over-run -public inquiry ruled out by Sturgeon

SNP government policy – outsource everything

This is the mantra that inspires the Scottish Government management of big projects, even when they are supposed to be major public infrastructure developments.

Some weeks ago we looked at the question of CalMac after information circulated about an impending privatisation plan.

The First Minister denied the story, but closer inspection informs us that the proposed redesign has already been influenced by the corporate lobby:

“Ernst and Young were asked by Ministers to conduct an in-depth examination of the government structure which runs Scotland’s ferry service under a brief titled “Project Neptune”.

The government agreed contracts worth £560,000 with Ernst and Young to carry out the work.

That’s over half a million from the public purse into the bank account of a private firm with an ideological and economic preference towards privatisation.”

Project Neptune

Recent days have been fraught with controversy around the failure to deliver two new ferries to serve island communities. It shouldn’t need to be said, but maybe it is worth re-emphasising that such infrastructure is not an optional extra. It is a vital necessity.

The ferries are four years late, and vastly over budget. The failure to deliver these ferries has some obvious knock-on effects. Existing ferries are unable to meet demand effectively, and because of their age, unable to deal with the variable conditions of the sea on a sustained basis. This leads to an increase in cancelled sailings.

Bill Calderwood, secretary of the Isle of Arran Ferries Committee, puts it in stark terms:

“The situation is deteriorating. It’s unsustainable for the island, for our businesses and for our quality of life.”

It should be a benchmark task of the Scottish Government to deliver essential connectivity, and to build up Scottish manufacturing. Instead we have failure to deliver on the one hand, and on the other, we have Turkish yards building new ferries to serve the Islay routes. As reported recently:

“Cemre Marin Endustri has been announced as the preferred bidder for the order against three other yards which will increase vehicle and freight capacity by nearly 40 per cent.”

We might also look at the failure to deliver other vital infrastructure projects, such as the failed high speed broadband roll out, which is running six years late without an end in sight. Something is not working.


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