Nicola Sturgeon under fire as £3000-a-day shipyard boss’s pay compared to Lionel Messi

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The First Minister was challenged over the amount of money given to Tim Hair, Ferguson Marine’s former “turnaround director”.

Mr Hair was brought in to improve the fortunes of the Port Glasgow shipyard after it was nationalized by the Scottish Government in 2019.

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Two ferries under construction at the yard are now set to be at least four years late and around £150 million over budget.

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andrew Milligan – Pool/Getty Images

It came as Ms Sturgeon said the government would “not repeat what has happened” with the two vessels.

She said she did not recognize claims the final cost of the ferries could be up to £400 million.

A report by Audit Scotland recently raised concerns over a lack of documentation to explain why the ferries contract was signed off without a refund guarantee that would have protected public money.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar said emails obtained through Freedom of Information showed Mr Hair’s appointment was “rushed through without the usual competition in just a few days”.

He said: “Mr Hair was selected from a shortlist of only three people, all recommended by corporate advisers PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“In the process of negotiating his salary, he started by offering a rate of £2,000 a day but ended up being paid just under £3,000 and expenses per day.

“And that the First Minister was informed about all of this, and didn’t raise a single objection.”

He said Mr Hair ended up earning £2 million. The turnaround director left his role for him at the end of 2021 and a new chief executive is in place.

Mr Sarwar added: “As people across Scotland tighten their belts, can the First Minister explain why she thought it was right to pay Tim Hair over £2 million, meaning he earned in just 11 days what the average Scot earns in a year?”

Ms Sturgeon said decisions were taken in line with “proper processes”, adding: “I don’t set the market rates for what people are paid.”

To laughter in the chamber, Mr Sarwar shot back: “Market rate? £3,000 a day? Were you signing Lionel Messi?

“Government advisers actually suggested Tim Hair needed a decent pay package so that life wasn’t and I quote, ‘unnecessarily painful’ for him while he swapped Hampshire for Port Glasgow.

“Shocking and out of touch.”

He challenged the First Minister over whether Mr Hair was “value for money”, and accused the Scottish Government of being “all about spin and PR while the public pay the bill”.

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon expressed her “deep regret” for the delays and cost overruns.

However, she said it was right for the Scottish Government to “protect and save jobs”, and insisted all lessons would be learned.

She said 462 people worked at the yard, later adding: “We should not lose sight of the fact that but for government intervention, this shipyard would no longer be operational, it would no longer be open and there would be nobody employed.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Ms Sturgeon of throwing “good money after bad”.

He said she had failed to guarantee costs would not reach up to £400m, and branded the ferries deal “catastrophic”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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