GREENOCK businessman Sandy Easdale has accused the Scottish Government of throwing taxpayers’ cash around like ‘confetti’ in the ongoing Ferguson ferries fiasco.
Easdale said the people of Inverclyde were ‘sick of the national embarrassment’ that had been created by government around the once proud Ferguson Marine shipyard.
His comments come in the wake of fresh revelations that the Scottish Government paid consultant Tim Hair around £790,000 between 1 January and 31 December last year to run the nationalised yard.
Alongside his brother James, Sandy Easdale had expressed an interest in saving the yard when it went into administration in August 2014. The yard was ultimately sold to Monaco-based Jim McColl and was subsequently handed a £97million contract for two new CalMac vessels which remain uncompleted and could cost up to £300million by the time they are finished.
The McGill’s Buses owner –- who is not affiliated to any political party — said he had today written to Stuart McMillan, the SNP representative who is seeking re-election to Greenock and Inverclyde, to express his dismay.
He said: “The situation at Ferguson’s since the first administration has been nothing short of a national scandal. I know the skills and talent that were there when we looked at the business in 2014 -– it needed leadership and investment to make it prosper.
“Instead, time after time, the workers at Ferguson’s and the people of Inverclyde have been let down by mismanagement.
“When you think the situation can’t get much worse, then news breaks that £790,000 of public cash is being paid to a consultant to run the yard. This is while staff are leaving in their droves because they no longer want to be associated with the scandal that the SNP Government has created there.
“Ferguson’s is a relatively small facility and should be simple to manage with the right people and processes. However, there is a lack of accountability and we are seeing tax contributions thrown around like confetti. I’m sick of it and I know the people of Inverclyde are too.
“If I was to manage any of my businesses in a similar fashion then I’d cease trading and carry the can for that. But with this government, no one takes responsibility regarding this saga.
“Recent figures I saw quoted in the media said that in 14 years pre-devolution and up to the 2007 Scottish elections, 12 ferries with a combined tonnage of 33,350 were launched. In the following 14 years, with the SNP in power at Holyrood, only five ferries with a combined tonnage of 16,188 entered service.
“It is clear that there is severe mismanagement regarding our once proud shipbuilding tradition in Inverclyde and it’s about time we got real answers why that has been allowed to happen.”
Mr McMillan told Inverclyde Now: “I thank Mr Easdale for writing to me. I always welcome local constituents and business owners contacting me. If re-elected on 6th May, I would be happy to meet with him in the weeks following. Like Mr Easdale, I am shocked at the level of salary and expenses Mr Hair is reported to have received.
“I cannot justify this level of salary whilst there are a growing number of people in my community going to foodbanks and there are many people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.
“I supported the Scottish Government taking the yard into public ownership and still do. These actions saved over 300 jobs and more have been created since then.
“However, local people will wonder quite rightly, if we are getting value for money when one person can receive such a vast pay packet.
“We all want the yard to be a success and if Mr Hair fully turns the yard around, delivers the two CalMac vessels in the reported timescale and is able to increase the yard’s order book, then some may argue they understand his high level of pay.”
In the letter to MSP McMillan, Easdale says that he intends to be more vocal about the Ferguson situation before, during and after the election.
The Easdale Brothers are major employers in the Inverclyde area, have multiple business and property interests and are currently spearheading proposed developments with a combined value of £350million at the former IBM Greenock and Tullis Russell papermill site in Glenrothes.