UK law firm tapped to probe alleged irregularities in Scottish ferry procurement

Ferguson Marine's River Clyde facilities (Photo: Ferguson Marine)

Scottish government-owned ferry company Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL) has requested a legal firm to appoint a King’s Counsel (KC) who will conduct an independent investigation into supposed irregularities related to the procurement of new passenger vessels.

London-based Addleshaw Goddard, CMAL’s legal firm, has been tasked with appointing a KC, though CMAL itself claimed it is unable to comment further while the investigation is ongoing and the Scottish government said it has no involvement in the appointment.

CMAL assured that an audit conducted in 2018 revealed “no adverse issues” with the ferries’ procurement. However, the two vessels slated for local operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) have been under continuous scrutiny for being delayed for more than five years as well as being £150 million (US$182 million) over budget.

A BBC report published in September 2022 stated that the news outlet had obtained a leaked dossier indicating local shipyard Ferguson Marine was given preferential treatment, allowing it to win the tender for the new ferries. Evidence to that effect includes Ferguson being issued a 424-page document outlining CalMac’s vessel design requirements whereas its competitors were each given a document limited to only 125 pages.

The KC investigation will be run separately from an ongoing inquiry conducted by a public audit committee of the Scottish Parliament into the delays in the two ferries’ deliveries. This committee is scheduled to present its findings in March 2023.

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