Concerns are growing about engines purchased for the two Calmac ferries more than five years ago. Despite costing four million pounds, the state run Ferguson shipyard has never tested them. The process of testing allows ships engines to be both assessed and prevented from losing condition. It has been revealed that the first time this will be done is late summer 2022 which may be too late and they may seize up. Dr Spyros Hirdaris a head of Maritime Safety:
There is a high possibility that the ferry engines won’t work and it seems very high risk to expect everything will go according to plan. If you have a car for a long time and never switch on the engine it’s probably not going to work. It’s extremely important the engines are tested on board so it’s not a good thing that they haven’t been tested for all this time. They should have tested the functionality of the engines. There could be problems because the engines have been there for a long time. The engines could halt, there could be malfunctions in some of the sub-systems, there could be problems with lubrication and corrosion of engine components.There are a number of things that may not work, for example the dual-fuel system may not operate properly because it’s such a long time since it has been tested.
In the Scottish Parliament, Shadow Transport MSP Graham Simpson expresses his frustration at the lack of answers over how much longer it will take to get the Scottish ferries ready.
Well, I’m asking a question in this chamber, and I expect to get an answer and the minister has not made an attempt to answer the question, which is by how long the ferries are delayed. It is not acceptable. We’re at a crisis point here. Just yesterday, only 13 out of CalMac’s 29 routes were operating normally. Islanders are at their wits’ end. There’s no slack in the system, so when a ferry breaks down, the knock on effects are horrendous. We need a steady pipeline of new ferries being ordered.
Business Minister Ivan McKee responds:
The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that Scotland’s islands have got the connectivity. That’s why we are making that substantial investment into ensuring that that is indeed the case. The details of the impact of that cable issue are being worked through at the moment and we will report back when the robust information is available as to the implications in terms of time and cost of that particular issue.
The Turkey order had been part of a £580 million investment in further expanding the ferry service. In contrast McKee’s predecessor, Graham Dey had asked for £1.5 billion over 10 years. A cross party visit to the shipyard planned for January had been cancelled and rescheduled for April 2022 . A freedom of information request to get an answer for when the two ferries will be ready, failed to be answered within the required 20 days and has been escalated to an appeal.
Sturgeon refuses to give any reasons why Eilidh Mactaggart suddenly resigned as chief executive of the state-owned bank. Sturgeon says MacTaggart’s resignation happening at the same time that Kate Forbes announced the Scottish Government’s 10year economic plan is “a coincidence” and in response to requests for clarifications she said:
I am sure everyone will understand that I am not going to go into the confidential details of anybody’s employment situation.The former chief executive of the Scottish National Investment Bank is a private individual. She has opted to resign her post and is entitled to the duty of care that any individual in her circumstances is entitled to.
Sturgeon has requested a full list of Russian oligarch owned properties in Scotland. This is as part of an international effort to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, through economic sanctions are aimed at anyone who has either profited from or supported the Putin regime. Registers of Scotland handed over a dossier last week. comprising homes, lands, boats and goods. It has been pointed out that the many of the sanctions will fail because over 15 percent of the lands are held by offshore firms. A decade ago the SNP government set up the land reform group to investigate the secretive foreign ownership of Scottish land. The recommendation of the LRG was to ban offshore land ownership but this was ignored by the Scottish Government
Rowling says Sturgeon is putting vulnerable women at risk with the plan to change the gender recognition laws. The proposed changes will allow a person to change their gender after three months. Rowling says this means that men facing a custodial sentence for harming women, could potentially self declare as female and be incarcerated in a female prison
Speaking at an event to mark International Women’s Day, Sturgeon says gender equality should be at the heart of building back after the covid pandemic and praises the role that women had played in the pandemic as carers and key workers. She also says that the pandemic made some inequalities worse and vowed that addressing inequalities between men and women should be at the centre of the post covid recovery
We must learn lessons from the pandemic and work together to build a fairer country.And given the massive contribution women made to tackling the pandemic, the massive contribution women make to our society each and every day, any attempt to build a better society out of this must have gender equality absolutely at its heart.
Sturgeon weighs into the Ukraine debate to clarify statements made by her own party members. Mike Russell SNP party president and Michelle Thompson Scottish likened Ukraine’s’ fight against their Russian invaders – to the fight for Scottish independence. When asked about this, Sturgeon said it was “overstating things”
There is no connection between a war in Ukraine and the support and campaign for independence in Scotland.What I think should unite all of us right now are some fundamental values, the values that underpin I think much of our democracy in Scotland – and certainly underpin my party and the independence movement – the commitment to democracy, freedom, the rule of international law and the value of the world coming together in solidarity. These are the values that we hold dear and these are the values that people bravely in Ukraine are standing up for in the toughest imaginable circumstances. But we should all remember right now this is about Ukraine fighting for these values and our responsibility is to do everything we can to support them.
The ferries are now three years overdue, less than half built and are predicted to cost £110 million more than originally estimated. Hair says that the ships are “significantly less than half built” and that 95% of the ships design has not been agreed with CMAL more than four years after the ships were ordered. He said that more naval architects and engineers have been taken on to deal with this. The shipyards executive said that the planning process for changes to the design under the yards prior to nationalisation was “either absent or badly flawed”:
The number of £110m [the extra money needed to finish the project] has been arrived at from a very detailed examination of the two vessels and an understanding of the work that needs to be done in order to bring them up to a viable standard.It is a very significant number but it is a number that has been based on as rigorous an assessment as we’ve been able to carry out. It’s one where I am confident we can deliver the two vessels for that amount.
Committee member and Tory MSP Peter Chapman said people would find the situation “absolutely incredible”.
How the heck do you get to £110m, which is more than what the original cost was to start from scratch with a pile of steel and nothing?
Sturgeon says she will send 500,000 medical items to Ukraine to help those “fighting a battle for democracy and freedom” against their Russian invaders. While visiting a distribution centre that was collating the items she described this as an initial consignment and said that while the conflict was ongoing she do as much as she could to support them. Predicting that the war would be “likely to be grimmer and more deadly in the weeks and months to come” she asked that the Prime Minister make it easier for fleeing Ukrainians to come to the UK. She described the UK Government as having moved in the right right direction but not far enough.
I would appeal to the Prime Minister to stop moving forward incrementally, stop having to be dragged into a better position. Follow the example of the European Union who’s opened its doors and said people from Ukraine will get entry and the right to stay for three years, follow the example of Ireland as they drop visa requirements, open the doors of the UK to people fleeing this horror in Ukraine and sort the paperwork later.That’s the humanitarian thing to do, it’s what we need to do to give life to the words of support that everybody is articulating right now. But it’s also the practical and necessary thing to do.I don’t think any of us has properly grasped the magnitude of the population displacement that is going to come from this war.
She also said that the donation of so many medical items would not mean that the Scottish NHS would go without.
Sturgeon asks the Home Office to review its immigration policy to allow Ukranians fleeing war to enter the UK without a visa, calling for them to be given asylum first and their paperwork be processed after. She also called the existing Home office immigration policy “inhumane ind indefensible”, comparing UK policy with the Republic of Ireland who had completely done away with any visa requirement for entry in response to the situation in Ukraine.
Sturgeon says she is appalled that Alex Salmond continues to work for a Russian State television company RT and has asked that Ofcom revoke RT’s licence so that they are prevented from broadcasting in the UK
It’s a matter for Ofcom, but I do think there is now a very serious question about whether RT should continue to have a broadcast here in Scotland.And I would certainly encourage Ofcom to look at that very, very seriously and closely indeed.I’m appalled at Alex Salmond’s continued involvement with RT, I don’t think it’s any secret now that I don’t think he should ever have had a television show on RT, but it is even more unthinkable now that that should continue.
Sturgeon says that even though free Covid tests will end in England on 1st April, they will remain free to users in Scotland. She was unable to confirm how they would be paid for though. She expressed “frustration at the position of the UK Government”, who she said may reject calls for extra money and “demand instead that funding is taken from elsewhere in the health budget”.
We consider it important – in line with the principle of healthcare free at the point of use – that they should remain free of charge for any circumstance in which government recommends testing.
Sturgeon says masks will cease to be a legal requirement in Scotland after 21st March but she “strongly encourages” people to continue to wear them in public. She also added that should another dangerous new variant arise then restrictions could be reimposed.
As of March 21 – assuming no significant adverse developments in the course of the virus – we expect that the legal requirement to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings and on public transport will be converted to guidance. However, we will continue to strongly recommend the wearing of face coverings in shops and other indoor public places, and on public transport. We also expect on March 21 to lift the legal requirement for businesses, places of worship and service providers to have regard to Scottish government guidance on covid, and to take reasonably practicable measures set out in the guidance. The Scottish Government will adopt three threat risk levels that could see restrictions reimposed
Sturgeon congratulates the British Women’s curling team as they win a gold medal in the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Sturgeon has says the English and Scottish governments would negotiate pension liabilities at the point of independence but other senior members of her party have given different views on how this will be handled. The Blueprint for Scottish Independence, which was written before the 2014 referendum, said after independence the responsibility for paying out to Scottish pensioners would be held by the Scottish Government.
There are assets and liabilities, including pensions, that of course will be subject to negotiation when Scotland becomes independent. On an ongoing basis it will be for the Scottish Government to fund Scottish pensions, but in terms of how we take account of historic assets and liabilities, that will be a matter of negotiation.
In response to the argument that pensions are paid out of current taxes rather than out of national insurance contributions:
You might want to look at the Fraser of Allander comments on this just recently when they talk about the fact that access to pensions in the UK is not based on citizenship, it is based on National Insurance contributions.
In a letter to Lockhart, convenor the Scottish Government’s Net Zero committee, Ferguson Marine’s turnaround director says that in the week before Christmas 2021, engineers unwound coils that had been installed in late 2018/early 2019 and found some of them were too short to reach the necessary equipment. After three weeks of investigation, Ferguson engineers believe that at least 400 cables will need to be addressed, with the worst case requiring 939 cables to be replaced. The faulty cables were installed by a sub-contractor before the shipyard went into administration – none of the cables were installed after the Scottish Government took control of the yard. Most or all the vables will need to be cut out and the process started again. Hair says it is not currently possible to determine the impact on schedule and cost of the problem. Hair:
I regret to advise you that a problem has recently emerged with the build of 801 which I thought I should immediately bring to your attention. Commissioning and further cable installation cannot take place until the legacy cables are corrected, delaying the overall project to deliver 801. There will inevitably be knock-on effects that will delay the schedule for 802. At present it is not possible to determine the impact on schedule and cost.
Sturgeon says an independent Scotland would fund Scottish pensions.
On an ongoing basis it will be for the Scottish Government to fund Scottish pensions.
While visiting a community fire station in Bathgate, Sturgeon comments on an announcment by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service that firefighters are to start carrying Nalaxonespray which can reverse the effects of an opiod overdose.
[Nalaxone] is a part of the overall approach we have taken to reduce the unacceptable toll that drugs have taken in Scotland and the number of deaths that are caused by drugs. We already have naloxone being used by the police (and) by the ambulance service. The Fire and Rescue Service initiative is an important addition to that. Of course, ultimately, we want to see naloxone kits widely available to people, to families of people who are drug users, for example, because it’s easy to administer and it can be the difference between life and death.
I want to see a significant reduction in the lives that are lost and are wasted to drugs, but we recognise it’s going to take time. What we have seen in recent years in Scotland in the form of drugs deaths is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to me, to the Government and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anybody across the country so we are determined to turn that around.
A freedom of information response shows Sturgeon approved Godley’s £10,000 Covid commercial fee, despite Yousaf raising concerns. On August 30, Mr Yousaf’s private secretary emailed the First Minister’s Office to say that My Yousaf felt using Ms Godley could “be divisive” and “there may be many people who purposely switch off if she is fronting it”. Yousaf wanted an unnamed male celebrity to front the public health campaign instead as he would “be a better candidate, given his broader appeal”. Sturgeon’s office replied:
FM (First Minister) is content to clear but agrees with Cab Sec comments. FM is very supportive of Janey Godley and she has been hugely helpful to our Covid messaging but she is perceived to be on one side of the political debate in Scotland and so may not speak to the maximum number of people.
In an interview with Sky Sturgeon says that she had considered quitting her job last year whilst she was being investigated for breaching the ministerial code. She said that the position of First minister like that of Prime Minister was a privilege not something to be taken for granted and where you are found to have broken the standards required of the job, you have to be willing to step aside.
My own personal experience this time last year – I was being accused in a completely different context, of having breached the ministerial code. I should say I was found by an independent adviser, and in an independent report, not to have breached the ministerial code. But when that was ongoing, I had within myself to ask myself some serious questions and I had came to the conclusion in my mind, that had I been deemed to have breached the ministerial code – I didn’t think I had – but if an independent person had said I had, then in the interest of the office I hold and in the interest of the country, I at that point would have resigned.I’m sure it would have been really difficult and I’m glad that didn’t come to pass. But these responsibilities are heavy responsibilities, and they require all of us in these offices to contemplate things that perhaps others might think is difficult to imagine.
She also says Boris Johnson should resign.
I think if Boris Johnson has decency and integrity, however difficult it may be, he will reach the conclusion that the time is right for him to step aside.