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"More than five months have passed since Nicola Sturgeon assigned all the ministerial portfolios in her latest government. But it appears that our new minister for transport, Graeme Dey, has yet to hold any meetings with Ferguson Marine or its turnaround director about its unfinished ferries."


Transparency and accountability: two words notably, and continually, absent from the SNP Lexicon. 

We might look for "integrity", but that, too, would be a fool's errand. 

'Conscientiousness' ? Don't bother; after all, the government doesn't. 


Personally, I cannot wait for the Netflix/Amazon/TV series:

'Scots on the Rocks' - the incredible true story of how SS Cabinet Minister ran aground on Treasure Island.




Is the Ferguson fiasco really not worth more ministerial attention?

Alf Young

Wednesday October 27 2021, 12.01am, The Times




More than five months have passed since Nicola Sturgeon assigned all the ministerial portfolios in her latest government. But it appears that our new minister for transport, Graeme Dey, has yet to hold any meetings with Ferguson Marine or its turnaround director about its unfinished ferries.

Last week Dey was telling Holyrood Magazine: “It’s nice to get up in the morning . . . and have something to get your teeth into.” That same week a freedom of information (FoI) request revealed that Dey, a former print journalist who also tells the magazine he hasn’t bought a newspaper since the 2014 referendum, has yet to make any contact with Fergusons or its lavishly remunerated senior executive Tim Hair.

The minister has had a couple of virtual meetings with both CMAL, the Scottish government’s own ferry procurement agency, and CalMac, the current operator of the ageing Clyde and Hebrides fleet and its parent company, David MacBrayne. But the only mention of Fergusons towards the end of that agenda ran to just five words: “recent programme revision was noted”.

That revision, remember, was about further delays of 15 weeks Hair had just announced for completing the two boats. Hull 801 will not now be completed until the latter half of next year; Hull 802 will not now be in service until well into 2023.


Dey also had eight virtual meetings with Transport Scotland. There was no focus in any of them on the Ferguson fiasco. What to do about camper vans taking up too much deck space while paying too little for the privilege got more attention. In none of the eight sessions was there an agenda. And no minutes are yet available for a series of meetings that started way back in May.


However, thanks to another series of FoI requests, we now know that Ferguson’s Hair continues to rake in £2,850 plus “reasonable” expenses plus VAT for each and every day he spends trying to turn the yard around. We had understood that his daily rate had been cut by 10 per cent from the start of March 2020 to just £2,565. We now know it is what civil servants and the yard call a “retention incentive” designed to ensure Hair doesn’t just walk away. Each month 10 per cent of his invoiced payment is retained. Every few months, if he’s still there, it is added to that month’s payment.

That helps explain why, in December 2020, Hair invoiced for £52,147 (before VAT, tax and national insurance) for 21 days’ work. While in January 2021, for just 14 days’ work, his equivalent invoice was for £59,891. In the most recent two months for which details have been released, Hair invoiced for £49,778 for 20 days’ work in June — but a whopping £86,477, for working just two days more, in July. It doesn’t make it any easier for the rest of us to fully comprehend what is going on.


The civil servant who responded to the latest FoI inquiry earlier this month had to apologise for a request that “was not handled as well as it should have been”. The person raising the inquiry had been told the government did not hold any of the relevant information. But the same FoI service had previously answered many similar questions from another member of the public.

This matters hugely. Hair’s current contract, which was struck with the then cabinet secretary for Finance, the Economy and Fair Work, Derek MacKay, runs out at the end of this year. Ferguson Marine has been owned by the Scottish government since MacKay intervened. If Scottish government sources are now insisting that Hair’s future at Fergusons and any contractual changes are all down to Ferguson’s board, we should all, as the people who pay for this through our taxes, be told.

That largely non-executive board — only Hair and the finance director George Crookston have executive status — meets virtually bi-monthly for two hours. The published minutes are, at best cursory. Since last May none have appeared at all on the Ferguson Marine website. If these are the people who decide whether Tim Hair is still around come January the concept of ministerial accountability will start looking as tarnished as those two unfinished hulls on the Lower Clyde.


Alf Young is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde


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  • 1 month later...

Shuffling the pack of QUANGO Kings and Queens,

and without a sniff of an Ace in the hole.

Knavish behaviour, as one might expect. 




Is musical chairs a prelude to clearing the decks for a new strategy on ferries?

Alf Young

Wednesday December 01 2021, 12.01am, The Times




Last Thursday the Scottish government set out a crucial decision about the future of Scotland’s troubled west coast ferry services. There was, I am told, no media briefing, no lobby guidance. Instead, the name of the next chairman of David MacBrayne Limited and those of three other new non-executive directors slipped out on the Scottish government’s website as one of eleven new publications that day.

Squeezed between “guidance” on boarding vessels with rope ladders and “further clarity” on a consultation on Scottish Landfill Tax, a “factsheet” appeared with the news that Graeme Dey, the transport minister, had appointed Erik Ostergaard as DML’s new chairman for the next three years.

Ostergaard is chairman of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, another of the Scottish government-owned players that, with the Ferguson Marine yard, procure ferries, upgrade harbours, try to build new vessels and operate lifeline services between Scotland’s western seaboard and its islands. The factsheet tells us that he will “stand down” from that CMAL role before taking over as board chairman at DML and its main subsidiary, CalMac Ferries, from January 3.

He will be expected to commit three days a week to his new role, for which he will be paid a daily rate of £363. How he will find the time is not explained. Ostergaard lives in his native Denmark, where he is chief executive of Danish Transport and Logistics, that country’s main trade body for hauliers. As chairman of CMAL, where he has been on the board since its inception in 2007, he is committed to six days a month.

I am told the boardroom musical chairs may be the prelude to more sweeping changes — the reunification of ferry procurement and ferry operations into an all-purpose state agency. EY, the consultancy, is due to report any day on the flaws in the existing tripartite delivery system for Clyde and Hebridean services, so ruthlessly exposed at the end of last year by the last Holyrood parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee. In what it saw as a “catastrophic failure”, MSPs from all parties criticised Transport Scotland and CMAL for applying “inadequate due diligence in scrutinising and signing off the procurement process”. But if the intention now is to reunite CMAL and DML/CalMac as a seamless, state-owned ferry delivery vehicle, ministers will stand accused of undermining their stated ambition of taking an independent Scotland back into membership of the European Union.


CMAL was spun off from ferry operations back in 2007 by the SNP to placate concerns in Brussels that European state aid rules were being breached. Stitching them back together now after nearly a decade and a half in which Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues have acquired a shipyard of their own but continue to fail in the delivery of these vital island services may eventually improve on that record. But it will not render an independent Scotland’s return to the EU fold any easier, even with an overworked Danish citizen in the chair.


I’m not even sure that the other new members being added to the DML board will be decisive. Tim Ingram is a health and safety specialist who has worked in the oil and gas industry and now runs his own consultancy. He occasionally lectures at Imperial College and also sits on the Western Isles NHS Board, where he chairs its audit committee. He’ll certainly know how hard it can be to get from Stornaway to London. Sharon O’Connor was once chief executive of Derry council and chairwoman of Northern Ireland’s education authority. She sits on the Accounts Commission of Scotland. Grant Macrae is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and has lots of experience of audit and risk in the public sector. He is a board member of the Scottish Police Authority.


So a trio of new board members who know a lot about financial accountability, but perhaps a less about what DML and CalMac Ferries are supposed to be about — running lifeline ferry services to many of Scotland’s scattered island communities effectively on behalf of the state. Real expertise in delivering reliable maritime links must be in very short supply.


Alf Young is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde

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One of the following statements is true:

' A row has erupted over a failure to appoint a single islander to the parent body of Caledonian MacBrayne, the under-fire ferry company.'

' The Scottish government said: “All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.” '


When the seagulls follow the ferry, it is because they know that largesse will come their way.


Ministers ignore islanders’ calls for ferry board seat

Mike Merritt

Wednesday December 08 2021, 12.01am, The Times


Islanders had pleaded for representation on the parent body of Caledonian MacBrayne from the communities that have suffered most




A row has erupted over a failure to appoint a single islander to the parent body of Caledonian MacBrayne, the under-fire ferry company.

Islanders had pleaded with Graeme Dey, the transport minister, for representation from the communities that have suffered most from regular breakdowns, delayed new ferries and not being listened to over services.

Western Isles council has expressed its “disappointment” that Scottish ministers have completed the appointments to the David MacBrayne Group Board but “ignored the pleas” from councils and companies to address the “fundamental gap in user experience of those appointed to the board”.

“Not one single resident of an island served by David MacBrayne Group or its subsidiary CalMac Ferries Limited sits on the company board and this opportunity to right this wrong has been passed up by ministers,” the council said. The new chairman and non-executive directors had “no residential tie to the communities the company serves”.

At a meeting of the Hebrides Ferry Stakeholder Group, Uisdean Robertson, chairman of transportation and infrastructure, said: “It is little wonder that the management of the company are so detached from the reality of their decisions when they are based far away at a headquarters in Inverclyde and those appointed to hold the company to account have limited experience of how the company’s actions affect people from Lewis to Arran.”


The council said it would continue to press for “real and meaningful change” to give communities a voice.

The Scottish government said: “All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

So long, suckers!!


There's an old saying:

When the guy with the money meets the guy with experience,  guy with experience gets the money, and the guy with the money gets an experience. 


Ferguson shipyard turnaround expert Tim Hair departs before ferries are built

Greig Cameron

Friday December 17 2021, 12.01am, The Times


Tim Hair was put in charge of the Port Glasgow yard in August 2019 and has earned more than £1.3 million




The highly paid turnaround expert hired to improve the fortunes of the Ferguson shipyard will leave his post before two long-delayed ferries are completed.

Tim Hair is departing the state-owned yard in February having racked up fees of more than £1.3 million since joining in August 2019.

He is being replaced by David Tydeman, 66, who was the chief executive of Oyster Yachts, a Southampton builder and designer of luxury boats, for a decade until it fell into administration in 2018 with 150 jobs put at risk.

Hair, 61, had been commuting from his home in Gloucester to the Port Glasgow yard. He was put in charge after a bitter dispute between the previous shipyard owners and Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, the government quango, over a £97 million contract to build two ferries for the Scottish public fleet. That caused the financial collapse of the business with Scottish ministers stepping in to buy it.

A subsequent Holyrood inquiry found widespread failings and called for an overhaul of how ferries were bought.


Neither ferry is ready to sail and the total bill is expected to have increased to about £300 million.


Alistair Mackenzie, the chairman of the board at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow), said it was the “right time” to appoint a permanent leader.


Graham Simpson, the transport spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said Hair’s departure was the latest twist in the “sorry fiasco at the shipyard”.

He said: “The only thing that Mr Hair seems to have turned around during his expensive tenure is himself. The two delayed ferries still haven’t been finished yet but the SNP are already patting themselves on the back.

“This is typical of the SNP’s ongoing mismanagement of the shipyard. The truth is that they have no idea how to turn things around at Ferguson’s, and are simply throwing taxpayer money at the problem and keeping their fingers crossed.”


In October Hair warned that there was “a significant challenge” in meeting delivery targets although the first vessel is scheduled to come into service in the second half of next year with the other following in 2023.

There was outrage after it emerged under Freedom of Information that he was being paid more than £2,500 per day with his total fees having reached almost £1.3 million by July this year.

Tydeman, who starts on February 1, is to be paid £205,000 annually and was appointed after what was described as an international search for candidates.


He started his career as a Lloyds Register surveyor at a Govan shipyard after graduating as a naval architect at Southampton University in 1976. He spent 20 years in the marine, shipbuilding and offshore industries, including roles at Occidental, the American Bureau of Shipping and Vickers Marine.

Tydeman moved on to a number of executive management roles including the chief operating officer at AWG plc and the chief executive of Skanska’s building division.

Between 2008 and 2018 he was the chief executive of Oyster Yachts until it fell into insolvency. More recently he was the chairman at Fairline Yachts and has been providing consultancy advice on other yacht building projects.

His successor needs a miracle
The departure of Ferguson Marine’s turnaround director shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. His contract had days left to run (Alf Young writes). His grotesquely generous remuneration was never matched by any real evidence that, under his executive monopoly, those two CalMac ferries would see service. Delivery dates were stretched and stretched again.


The man from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire’s only real experience of ships was as a young marine engineer on cruiseliners. The history of his reinvention as a corporate turnaround specialist is littered with small engineering players struggling to be turned around and, in some cases, closed.

Nicola Sturgeon’s government, which now owns the Ferguson yard, should have seen through Tim Hair’s lack of credentials for leading the task it had taken on. Let’s hope Hair’s replacement is better equipped to deliver.


A procurement exercise given to a shipyard with a history of designing, building and delivering successful vessels through much of the 20th century has turned into a scandal branded in an all-party consensus by a Holyrood committee as a “catastrophic failure”. It will take a turnaround of miracle proportions.

Alf Young is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde

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"No ferries would call at Tarbert on Harris while CalMac makes harbour improvements elsewhere"

While there are those who might consider this a Good Thing (evidentially, eg the Sturgeonista Government), it really is ludicrous - the overspecced, overdue, and also over budget, ferry, is also oversized for its port of call facilities. 

We need to add the costs of this remodelling the terminal, etc. and dredging to the bill. 


This ferry, not the Glen Sannox Arran vessel, has yet to be given a name.

I might suggest MV Narcissus, which would adequately reflect the Vanity Project nature of the ferry design, procurement, and build. 




Harris islanders ‘marooned for months’ while CalMac upgrades Uig ferry harbour

Mike Merritt, Hamish Morrison

Thursday December 23 2021, 12.01am, The Times

No ferries would call at Tarbert on Harris while CalMac makes harbour improvements elsewhere




MSPs have hit out at the “ridiculous” apparent marooning of islanders on Harris while major harbour works lasting months on Skye take place next year.

It follows the announcement by the ferry operator CalMac that capacity will be reduced on the Uig triangle route in 2022.

The ferry’s mezzanine deck will be removed from certain sailings during the summer months to avoid employing an additional crew required to keep to agreed timetabling.

But CalMac is also consulting on a 21-week timetable from September which would discontinue entirely the ferry connection to Tarbert on Harris, while improvements are made to the harbour in Uig on Skye.

The works are necessary for one of the two overdue ferries being built on the Clyde. The revamped Uig Harbour will include a linkspan replacement, new terminal building and dredging in preparation for the new vessel.


The ferry service from Lochmaddy on North Uist would be rerouted to Ullapool on the mainland and there will be increased sailings from Lochboisdale in South Uist.

But islanders and representative authorities have said the proposed arrangements will bring disruption and economic damage to Harris.

“We have already heard that the removal of the mezzanine deck on the Uig triangle would cost the island’s economy up to £9 million next summer,” said Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar. “Now, islanders are being asked to consult on proposals which would completely remove the Tarbert connection from September for nearly half the year. This would see Harris without a direct service for the tail end of the tourist season through the October and Christmas holidays.

Rhoda Grant, the Highlands & Islands Labour MSP, said the plan to reduce the service during the summer was “frankly ridiculous”. She added: “The only reason the Uig linkspan is having to be upgraded in the first place is because the Scottish government did not listen to the community wishes which would have led them to order a vessel to fit the existing infrastructure.”

Grant has also written to CalMac to ask how it can meet its legal obligation to provide a service to Harris.

Full use of the mezzanine deck would require ten additional crew members — equivalent to 20 full-time personnel — to be available for deployment on every sailing.

A CalMac spokeswoman said: “We are currently running a series of consultations, including speaking directly with communities affected by the disruption, and this process is ongoing until 7 January. A number of potential timetable solutions are being discussed with communities and we will take into consideration all community feedback before any plans are confirmed.”

Meanwhile ministers have been told that they acted unlawfully by failing to shortlist Ferguson Marine, the nationalised shipbuilder based in Inverclyde, for a £100 million contract to build two ferries.


Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, the Scottish government-owned company, invited four overseas companies to bid for the contract but left out Ferguson Marine.

The Inverclyde shipbuilder bid through the pre-qualification questionnaire process but failed to make the shortlist.

Critics said this was in contravention of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. The act was introduced to move towards contracts that offered the best long-term outcomes for Scotland.

Jim McEleny and Chris McEleny, Alba Party councillors for Inverclyde, have raised concerns with Kate Forbes, the finance secretary. Cmal said it had adhered to the Scottish government’s procurement process.

The Scottish government was approached for comment.

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4 hours ago, compo said:

Get some old landing craft and the islelanders can just wade ashore 

Surely you are not advocating the use of cattle boats?

Admittedly, I have seen some heifers in Stornoway....

...in Portree....in Craignure....in  Lochmaddy......in Castlebay.....in Kyle.....in Lochboisdale.....

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Devil’s in the ducktail as turnaround director heads for shipyard exit"


Alf Young not missing and hitting the bulkhead.....

although I did think that ducktail was a polite name for a 1950s gentleman's barnet.



Devil’s in the ducktail as turnaround director heads for shipyard exit

Alf Young

Wednesday January 12 2022, 12.01am, The Times




Two days before Christmas and just a week after it had been announced that he would be leaving his hugely-remunerated task of turning around the Ferguson Marine shipyard at Port Glasgow at the end of this month, Tim Hair submitted his final quarterly progress report to MSPs on the Scottish parliament’s net zero, energy and transport committee on delivery of the devolved government’s two many-years-late ferries. Was the timing designed to minimise scrutiny?


Delivery of Hull 801, launched as the Glen Sannox way back in November 2017, by late September this year, Hair wrote, “is achievable but remains challenging”. The Omicron phase of the Covid pandemic “has the potential to cause severe disruption at a critical time”. Particularly on pipework installation on 801, which “has not achieved planned levels”. And he reiterated an earlier warning about equipment like engines and liquefied natural gas tanks, that have been sitting around since 2016, posing “an unquantifiable risk that equipment problems may emerge during commissioning”.


Hair’s last update contains one fresh revelation, this time about the unlaunched Hull 802, scheduled for service on the Uig triangle between Skye and the Hebrides. It has had an additional feature added, a ducktail. It runs the full width of the ship at the stern and is 2.5 metres wide. It is, Hair writes, “designed to increase the speed of the vessel for a given power output from the engines”.

Hair goes on to reveal: “At their request, we have for some time been in discussion with Scottish government, Transport Scotland and CMAL regarding the ducktail.”

Then he cautions that “these discussions have the potential to impact the schedule for delivery of the vessel”, currently pencilled in for sometime between April and June 2023. If Hair’s appointment was all about turnaround and delivery, why on earth were the Scottish government, its transport arm and CMAL all insisting on the addition of this power-saving ducktail many years after the original design and specification schedules were agreed? Could it have anything to with the rocketing price of liquefied natural gas, which, if it persists, will render both ferries much more expensive to run?


All in all it seems the only thing that is readily quantifiable from the brief Hair turnaround era is the seven-figure sum he has banked from his own daily rate and expenses. Back in mid September, when the government-owned yard lost out on tendering for two new ferries for the Islay service, the local SNP MSP Stuart McMillan was calling for “a change in management” at Fergusons. When it was announced three months later that Hair was on the way out, McMillan abruptly changed course.


He thanked Hair “for his tireless efforts” and suggested that “the yard has made some progress since he took over as turnaround director”. Has he even read Hair’s own heavily qualified progress reports to MSPs on that backbench committee?

And can he tell the rest of Scotland outwith the Holyrood bubble, when we might all get to read the results of Ernst & Young’s Project Neptune report into the current tripartite governance structure involving the government’s own Transport Scotland agency, its CMAL ferry and harbours procurement agency and the west coast ferry service delivery vehicle, CalMac, which the Scottish state also controls?

Neptune’s findings were promised by Christmas by the transport minister Graeme Dey months ago. Where are they? Are they being consigned to the same serial redaction treatment that has rendered successive SNP administrations claims of open and accountable government so risible?

The Ferguson Marine board runs a business that is wholly owned by the Scottish government. But it hasn’t published any minutes from its bi-monthly board meetings on its website since last May.

And those minutes that had appeared up to last May tell the rest of us next to nothing about what Tim Hair, during his entire tenure, was telling the Ferguson board about progress. For a state-owned venture burning its way through countless millions and so far delivering next to nothing, it’s a national disgrace.


Alf Young is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde

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