Ferguson's Shipyard in SNP led talks with EU Commission

08 June 2005
"Open door with the Commission, if only the Executive could be so helpful"

SNP MEP Alyn Smith today led a meeting between EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Fergusons Shipyard Managing Director Richard Deane along with local SNP MSP Bruce Mcfee.

The meeting discussed alleged illegal subsidy of Polish shipyards, and the Scottish Executive tender of two fisheries protection vessels (FPVs). If the Fisheries vessels go to Fergusons it would fill a gap in the yard's order book and keep the yard open. The Executive has previously given these contracts to Poland. The meeting ship at the Port Glasgow yard.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Smith said:

"Yet again I'm contrasting the difference in attitude of the European Commission and the Scottish Executive. The Commissioner could not have been more constructive. She was concerned to hear the complaint from Fergusons that the EU rules are being broken in Poland, and will be looking into this alleged illegal subsidy so I'm pleased we secured that result for Fergusons."

"Short term, we discussed the tender process decided upon by the Scottish Executive for two fisheries protection vessels. Having had this meeting with the Commission, I believe that these boats should be exempt from tender. The Executive has yet again misinterpreted EU rules, and interpreted them against our own while other countries interpret them in their own favour. I will be writing to the Scottish Minister Ross Finnie this afternoon with my advice, and calling upon him to halt this flawed tender process now. He has the power to save Fergusons, and if he reverses his position on the basis of the SNP findings nobody will applaud him louder than I will."

"The issue here is that if the boats are described as "grey boats" then the procurement process is different and Fergusons would be in a far better position to win the order. The Executive has decided that the boats are civil boats so they do have to go through the full tender process, which has opened up this allegedly unfair Polish competition." "If he continues down this flawed route against our better advice the people of Port Glasgow and Inverclyde should never forgive him or his Labour colleagues. There are alternatives to the Executive's plan, they have just not been looking for them."

Local MSP Bruce McFee who accompanied Fergusons to the meeting said

"Coming to Europe has given a real boost to the campaign to keep Fergusons open. I've heard from the Executive so many times that they are restricted by EU rules, but that's just not true. The European Commission has told us straight that there are ways Fergusons could be helped and ways to stop orders for Scottish ships ending up in Polish yards. Why can the Executive not see that."

"Jack McConnell, Jim Wallace and Ross Finnie will all be responsible if Fergusons closes because of their inactivity. The people of Port Glasgow and Inverclyde are being seriously let down. I'm fed up with hearing them ramble about EU rules, it is quite obvious they do not understand the situation or the seriousness of Fergusons position "

The Commissioner accepted a formal complaint by Fergusons into alleged illegal subsidy of private Polish yards. The Commission had announced on Thursday 2 June that it will launch a full investigation into alleged illegal subsidy of three Polish state owned yards. The Fergusons complaint calls for this investigation to be widened to cover private yards also.