SNP challenges Executive over action on Ferguson shipyard

17 July 2005
Commission reveals "no formal discussions" with Scottish Ministers for two years

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith today (Sunday) called on the Scottish Executive to reveal precisely what discussions it has had in Europe over Ferguson Shipbuilders and their allegations of unfair competition across Europe.

Mr Smith has received a parliamentary answer from the European Commission stating there have been "no formal discussions" on shipbuilding in Scotland or on the use of state aid for shipbuilding in other European countries with the Executive or UK government since mid 2003.

Management of the Ferguson yard claim they may have to close due to Polish yards undercutting them with illegal subsidies. The Polish yard is now under investigation after management at Ferguson lodged their complaint directly with the European Commission.

Mr Smith said:

"If this answer is correct it is absolutely shameful. The Executive needs to be clear on precisely what action they have taken so we can have an open and honest discussion on the future of the yard, and find some real solutions.

"Ministers have told MSPs, the workers at Ferguson and the people of Port Glasgow that they have investigated Ferguson's complaints against other European yards thoroughly. How can this be the case if they have not even spoken to the people in Europe that do the investigating?

"It is now time for the Executive to be open with all of those with a stake in the future of Ferguson, and tell us what action they have taken. I look forward to a full response from Mr McConnell and Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie."

Bruce McFee MSP, the SNP MSP for the West of Scotland who has spearheaded the local campaign to save the yard added:

"We are continually being told by senior Executive Ministers that they are doing everything they can to save the yard and that they have discussions, on a regular basis, with Europe regarding shipbuilding, but the Commission's answer appears to tell a different story.

"Jack McConnell and Ross Finnie must stop playing petty games with the livelihoods of the workers at the Ferguson yard and act before this yard is allowed to bleed to death."

Note to Editors

Alyn Smith MEP and Bruce McFee MSP will be at Ferguson Shipbuilders at 10am.

The full text of Mr Smith's Parliamentary Question is detailed below.

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1847/05
by Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE) to the Commission
Subject: State aid for shipbuilding

Can the Commission indicate what discussions it has held with the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Executive regarding the use of State aid for shipbuilding in Scotland and in other European countries and the outcome of such discussions?

E-1847/05EN Answer given by Mrs Kroes on behalf of the Commission (7.7.2005)

During the first half of 2003, the Commission organised multilateral meetings with the Member States on the preparation of the EU "Framework on State Aid to Shipbuilding"1. During these meetings, the Member States had the opportunity to express their views on the project, taking into account all issues of their interest. Whenever possible, comments and suggestions from the Member States were taken into account. Since then, no formal consultations have taken place with either the United Kingdom Government or the Scottish Executive on shipbuilding issues related to Scotland.

Quotes from Jack McConnell and Jim Wallace on Executive action on the Ferguson yard are available on request.

Contacts

SNP press Office: 0131-348 5684