DOUGLAS Ross has been told off by the Presiding Officer for using “props” during FMQs.

The Scottish Tory leader clashed with First Minister Humza Yousaf over reports that Ferguson Marine bosses were given bonuses despite their failure to complete two key ferries.

Ross produced a photograph of the FM in a high-vis jacket at Ferguson Marine marking the “halfway” point in the process to build vessels 801 and 802.

However, Ross pointed out that this was in 2016, six years ago, and was clearly not the halfway point.

Ross told the chamber: "We found a picture of the First Minister when he was transport minister visiting one of the yards.

"He was there that day to mark the halfway point in the building of these ferries. 

"The only problem for Humza Yousaf is that picture was taken at the halfway point, according to him in December 2016, more than six years ago.

"First Minister that wasn’t the halfway point, it wasn’t even the start of the sorry saga, so how does the First Minister who got us into this mess going to fix it?"

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Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone was quick to intervene and chastise the Tory leader.

"Before the First Minister responds I will remind members that we do not use props in the chamber," she said. 

"It’s just a sign of Douglas Ross’s real desperation, a pathetic schoolboy," the FM said in reply. 

"It shows his inability actually to address what is a really serious issue, because I agree with the opposition when they rightly state the anger of island communities that these ferries have not been completed. 

The National: The FM dubbed Ross's tactics as like a 'schoolboy'The FM dubbed Ross's tactics as like a 'schoolboy'

"So I give an absolute commitment and absolute guarantee to those island communities that we are focused and of course, Ferguson Marine will receive the resources that are required on the back of that due diligence that has been done in relation to the cost.

"So there are things that we should apologise for, and we will apologise for as the government, what won't be won't apologise for is of course, saving hundreds of jobs."

Elsewhere, Yousaf said there should be no bonuses paid in this financial year to bosses at Ferguson Marine as it emerged payouts are set to be made for last year.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle detailed “unacceptable” bonus payments totalling £87,000 were made to six senior members of staff in 2021-22 with the knowledge of Scottish ministers and despite the spiralling costs and delays in the delivery of two lifeline ferries.

On Thursday, Deputy First Minister Shona Robison wrote in a letter to Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee that further payments have been made so far this year for performance in 2022-23 with more to come in June.

Ross said: “The two ferries are not fit to sail, the costs continue to spiral out of control, and islanders continue to be left without vital, lifeline services – so First Minister, what on earth could these bonuses be for?”

Responding, Yousaf said: “I won’t disagree with Douglas Ross or the Auditor General… the former deputy first minister made clear his anger, we share that anger, I share that anger at the fact that bonuses have been paid.

“The bonuses that have been paid relate to a decision made by the remuneration committee of Ferguson Marine without consultation with the government in November 2022.

“Those bonuses, I have asked if they can not be paid and the advice coming back is that they are a contractual obligation.

“For any future discussion or consideration of bonuses, I have made it clear there should not be bonuses paid in relation to vessels 801 and 802.”

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The First Minister went on to say it was “his expectation” that bonuses should not be paid for the 2023-24 financial year.

The statement comes just hours after the Auditor General told Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee he was unsure if the money could be recovered.

Asked by SNP MSP Willie Coffey, who claimed it “beggars belief” bonuses could be paid at the yard, if the money could be recovered, Boyle said: “I don’t know if those amounts are recoverable, that would have to be a judgment made by others in terms of the specifics of it, in terms of conditions that existed for those senior managers, what their contracts said.

“We draw attention to these amounts because the amounts were paid without effective governance by the remuneration committee being discharged before the amounts were paid.”

It comes as the FM confirmed an investigation into an estimated £300 million overspend to replace HMP Barlinnie prison.

The National: Sarwar raised the issue of the replacement for Scotland's notorious prison BarlinnieSarwar raised the issue of the replacement for Scotland's notorious prison Barlinnie (Image: PA)

The state-of-the-art construction of HMP Glasgow, the replacement for the notorious prison, was initially projected to cost taxpayers £100 million.

However, the Scottish Government’s infrastructure plan up to 2025/26 has said the new £400 million cost will be “updated following full business case and procurement”.

Work on the prison is expected to begin in September, with an operational opening date marked for September 2026.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar urged Yousaf to commit to an audit into the capital programme as a new prison in the Highlands is also expected to cost around £140 million, a steep increase from its projected £52 million in 2011.

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He said the Scottish Government’s “failure in managing the public’s finances” was a result of “failed interventions, waste and incompetence”.

Yousaf committed to investigating the expected overspend, with a view to bring the costs down, but warned that increased construction costs were not unexpected due to the volatility of the market. 

The FM said: “We are looking at the cost overruns, we are seeing what can be done to mitigate those cost overruns.

“I think we all agree in relation to the fact that our Barlinnie is not in the conditions that any of us would like it to be.”