Scott renews calls for ferry contract decision to be scrutinised

Isles MSP Tavish Scott has renewed his call for Audit Scotland to scrutinise the tender process which led to Serco being awarded the lifeline Northern Isles ferry contract.

Together with his Orkney counterpart, Liam McArthur, Mr Scott has written to the Scottish transport and islands minister, Derek Mackay, calling for an examination of the Scottish government’s controversial decision to hand the job to the private operator in 2012.

A row emerged after The Shetland Times revealed a cheaper bid tendered by then incumbent operator NorthLink Ferries was returned unopened. NorthLink, at the time, was a publicly-owned organisation, coming under CalMac’s umbrella.

The Scottish government insists the tendering process was fair, balanced and properly conducted.

Mr Scott said: “It is difficult to understand why the NorthLink bid was not up to the required quality standard. That prompts some obvious questions about whether the public purse received value for money.

“I hope that Audit Scotland will look into all aspects of how this contract was awarded, and that lessons will be learnt in good time for the new contract, due just three years from now. This is our lifeline service and the contract must be handled properly. Any suggestion to the contrary must be fully and independently investigated.”

Mr McArthur added: “It is deeply worrying that an apparently lower bid, from a company already running a good service, was not even examined. For many of my constituents, this has raised all sorts of new questions about the procurement procedure followed by the Scottish government.

“In the past, SNP ministers have cited ‘commercial confidentiality’ to justify withholding information about this contract.

It would appear, therefore, that Audit Scotland is the only body which can get to the bottom of this and I hope that the minister will now agree to such a review.”


Add Your Comment
  • David Spence

    • May 12th, 2015 21:28

    Just an observation, but is there a connection between Serco and the vile Conservative Party?

    It seems very strange that a company with little or no experience in this industry should get the contract, despite there being another bid which was cheaper, and the company having much more experience.

    It is not only this form of work Serco, have been given by this vile Tory Government. Again, despite having little or no experience in the medical field or industry, this vile Government has decided to give the task of assessing people who could be ‘ fit for work ‘ but are off work due to illness, disability or looking after a loved one who may be disabled, elderly or someone dependent on another person.

    The initial contract was rewarded to the french company Atos, but after a huge outcry of their assessment of many people, including those on the severest for of terminal cancer, by the public for the company failing in so many categories, the contract was then awarded to Serco.

    It really does beggars belief that Serco, just like the lifeline boat service to the islands, should have even got an opportunity to bid, never mind getting the contract for such an important job as assessing people who are very much disadvantaged in so many ways.

    It also brings into question the relationship between Serco and the vile Tory Party, and why is it that this company is getting so much work and responsibility, even although they are not qualified or ‘ fit to do the work ‘…………or this is the impression one gets.

    • Sam Thomson

      • May 14th, 2015 7:55

      David while I dislike the Torys. I definitely do not want them running the country that much is true.

      When trying to blame them for fiascos make sure you check your facts first.

      Transport is devolved to Holyrood. Which in turn is run by the wonderful SNP who apparently can’t do anything wrong.

      Except possibly this, SNP awarded the contract to SERCO.

      Don’t think they are going to be able to weasel out of the blame for this one. Do you?

      • David Spence

        • May 14th, 2015 10:11

        I take your point, Sam, but I would still want to inquire as to how and why a company, which has donated substantial funds to the Tory Party, are getting so much work, to which they have very little experience in, from this Government.

        In a recent report regarding the tendering process, the company G4S was mentioned in the report as scamming and submitting high expenses in regards to the well being and incarceration of prisoners on behalf of the Government, where, after an investigation, G4S reimbursed the Government the difference for over charging. What I found surprising, Serco was not mentioned in this report, despite the fact they also had to reimburse the Government of a figure of around £35 million. Despite this, the Government was still giving the company work on behalf of various Departments related to the Home Office.

        Even although you have said the tendering process and the decision on what company may get the contract, I still believe that pressure was put on by the Tories to, lets say, favour Serco. You only have to scrutinize the companies experience and performance in not only the UK, but in other parts of the world, where, in many cases, Serco have been criticized for their business practices and treatment of their work force.

        I sincerely hope that my suspicions are proven correct with the investigation which is going to take place…..but time shall tell.

      • Sam Thomson

        • May 14th, 2015 12:08

        If the SNP had been pressured into giving the contract to SERCO we would have heard back by now.

        Any opportunity to blame someone else.

        However I do agree with you that anything suspicious should be investigated.

        However in the case of blaming Tories for how the ferry contract was awarded. I refer to my first statement.

        Its alright to have an opinion. But one based with some facts to back it up tends to be better than blind assertions.

    • Bill Smale

      • May 14th, 2015 10:20

      Serco did run the Woolwich ferry for a few years – on behalf of Transport for London.

      • Bill Adams

        • May 14th, 2015 11:29

        They did indeed, Bill. When the contract came up for renewal they lost out to a Scottish firm.
        Serco also ran the DLR (Docklands Light Rail) for quite a number of years in the East End of London but lost out just a few months ago when the contract came up for renewal by competitive bidding.
        Incumbent operators – including Serco – do not always inevitably succeed in retaining contracts.

  • David Spence

    • May 14th, 2015 12:46

    You have to admit Sam, there is a massive difference between running a small boat back and forth on the Thames river to this of managing a significantly larger vessel and covering a distance much greater than the width of a river?

    As said previously, this whole episode of the lifeline ferry to and from Aberdeen reeks of corruption at the highest levels of power, and political dealings behind closed doors……..I suspect?

    It also seems very suspicious that the slightest bit of wind blowing, Serco either does not sail or drastically changes the times when the boat is departing. I have noticed, as I am sure many other people have, Serco not sailing or drastically changing the times in which it does. It must be getting close to the highest number of times it has not sailed……..even if it is just within a 3 year period. I also suspect, in this age of the compensation society, Serco wanting to reduce being sued because the boat was sailing in slightly windy weather……..just an aside. lol

    • Sam Thomson

      • May 14th, 2015 15:39

      I never mentioned them running another ferry.

      Merely pointed out Holyrood awarded the contract.

      Your wild unfounded accusations of how the Tories must have had something to do with it are inaccurate and embarrassing.

      Yes SERCO are an awful company and I would rather not deal with them if at all possible. Its definetly a worse service.

      But shifting the blame off the partys responsible and trying to blame the Tories is utterly ridiculous.

      Transport is a devolved matter. Any backroom deals made could only have involved one party and its definetly not the Tories. Last time I checked SNP controlled Holyrood.


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