Boss of a rival operator was an ‘advisor’ on Gourock-Dunoon ferry service report

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THE integrity of a report on the way forward for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service has been referred to as into query after Scotland’s auditor common used the boss of a rival operator as an ‘advisor’.

Gordon Ross, managing director of Western Ferries, was aware of the ‘findings and conclusions’ of an investigation printed prior to move chiefs deciding to stick with unreliable foot passenger-only boats on the route.

The Audit Scotland report additionally quoted inflated figures of as much as £30m every for 2 new vehicle-carrying ships.

Nonetheless the physique in command of the nation’s ferry fleet has subsequently estimated the associated fee at £10m per vessel.

Campaigners combating for the return of automotive ferries to interchange the present small boats — which have suffered greater than four,500 cancelled sailings since 2016 — counsel ‘a transparent battle of curiosity’ in Mr Ross having been an advisor to the report.

Auditor Basic, Caroline Gardner, additionally took recommendation from Graham Laidlaw, the top of the ferry unit at Transport Scotland — the federal government physique intent on preserving the passenger-only service in place.

In a strongly worded letter to Ms Gardner, Susanna Rice, convener of the Dunoon-Gourock Ferry Motion Group, states: “It’s regular for members of advisory teams to get advance sight of experiences to supply touch upon any errors that they discover.

“The MD of Western Ferries could have recognized that the determine of £25-30 million for brand new vessels for the route was, to say the least, extreme.

“We propose that that there was a transparent battle of curiosity for such an individual to be an advisor to your report?”

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On using a senior Transport Scotland official in an advisory capability, Mrs Rice informed Ms Gardner: “This inevitably raises the query of whether or not your investigation has been compromised.

“In democratic states, audit methodology doesn’t usually allow representatives of the physique being investigated to even be its advisors.”

Transport Scotland declined to touch upon its advisory function to the report, which is titled ‘Transport Scotland’s Ferry Providers’.

A spokesman stated: “Sadly we haven’t any remark to supply on this challenge.

“That is for Audit Scotland and the ferry motion group.”

Former Caledonian MacBrayne boss Martin Dorchester gave the £25m-£30m determine to a Holyrood committee in 2017 nevertheless it has been dismissed by campaigners as a ‘guesstimate’.

A £50,000 professional examine commissioned by the Scottish Authorities in 2013 discovered that ships of a minimum of 40 metres in size have been wanted to deal with altering climate circumstances on the route and would value £6m for every vehicle-carrying vessel.

Caledonian Maritime Belongings Ltd (CMAL) says the present ‘ballpark’ determine for ferries able to carrying 220 passengers and 40 vehicles is £10m every.

An Audit Scotland spokeswoman stated: “The function and membership of the advisory group are set out within the report. Advisory teams are a routine a part of our efficiency audit work, and members are chosen for his or her particular person information and technical experience on the general public service that we’re auditing.

“Advisory teams allow us to check our findings and conclusions with the depth of perception required to make sound judgements, however the content material and conclusions of the report are the only duty of the Auditor Basic.

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“As well as, the audit workforce carried out intensive engagement with ten native communities to speak to ferry customers about their experiences and views of ferry companies.”

Western Ferries boss Mr Ross stated: “The figures as detailed have been supplied by the managing director of CalMac in formal proof to the transport committee, as such how would I’ve any perception or foresight as to CalMac’s proposed vessel design and the related capital prices?”

 

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