Half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money given to privy advisers on ferries

More than half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on privy advisers on ferries since 2015.

Scottish ministers have paid contracts worth £560,000 to Ernst and Young over the past seven years to examine the future of the structure of ferry services in Scotland.

According to The Herald, this includes a payment of £156,000 for the review of Project Neptune.

Project Neptune examines whether the current governance arrangement for Scottish ferries, which are jointly provided by Transport Scotland, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and CalMac Ferries Limited, is fit for purpose.

A further £404,000 has been paid for the council to analyze the financial situation of the Clyde and Hebrides ferries, which are operated by state-controlled CalMac Ferries.

Review of the future of the ferry structure

Documents from Transport Scotland indicate that Ernst and Young have been tasked with determining whether the current structure is suitable or not.

The consultancy was also asked to provide a recommendation on a potential structure for future ferry service contracts.

It comes as CalMac faces an aging fleet and its two newest vessels – MV Glen Sannox and MV Hull 802 – are still sitting in the Ferguson Marine shipyard.

Construction of these two vessels is now four years behind schedule and costing more than double the original £97million contract.

“Scandalous” use of public money

Scottish Labor MP Katy Clark has slammed payments to Ernst and Young, saying ministers should have used Scottish Government expertise for free rather than paying a management consultancy which has previously been accused of using private capital to rethink public services.

She said: ‘It is outrageous that the Scottish Government is taking public money and handing it over to unaccountable companies who have a vested interest in the private provision of public services.

“There is no reason why the Scottish Government cannot use the impartial expertise of the civil service to review the governance of our ferry network.”

She has also written to Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking the government to publish the consultancy’s findings and formally exclude the sale of any part of the Clyde and Hebrides ferries to any private company.

Ministers “rule out privatization”

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: ‘Scottish Ministers have already ruled out privatization and have no intention of splitting up the CalMac Ferries network.

“The Independent Review of Governance Arrangements for Scottish Government Vital Ferry Services will present a framework comprised of a range of options for the overarching objective of effective, efficient and economical delivery of vital ferry services, to improve the passenger experience and support local island economies.

“The final report was completed very recently and the transport minister assured parliament that it would be considered as soon as possible.

“We will then engage with all key stakeholders to ensure the most efficient and value-for-money arrangement to deliver our key vital ferry services.”

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