The Scottish Government is paying a “turnaround director” more than £790,000 a year to run its stricken Ferguson Marine shipyard.
Gloucester-based businessman Tim Hair was handed the astronomical £2565-a-day deal by shamed ex-finance secretary Derek Mackay two years ago.
It is likely to make him the UK’s highest paid public sector fatcat, on almost six times First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s £151,000 salary.
He was brought in after the Government nationalised the shipyard in the face of spiralling costs for two ferries.
At the time, Mackay – who was forced to resign after sending inappropriate text messages to a schoolboy – said public control would deliver “the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer”.
But opposition politicians have reacted furiously to our revelations on Hair’s earnings.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “It has long been clear that the Scottish Government’s handling of Ferguson’s has been a catastrophic failure, yet the SNP has failed to take any responsibility.
“So to learn of the eye-watering sums being paid to Mr Hair will raise even more questions.
“Were the project a startling success, it would be hard to justify this level of taxpayers’ money being used to pay one man.
“This is not value for money and Audit Scotland must urgently undertake a forensic inquiry into the financial management of Ferguson Marine.”
Documents show Hair was paid £791,285 between January 1 and December 31 last year. His daily rate is detailed as £2565.
Hair’s deal dwarfs the pay of Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines, whose £585,000 is believed to be the highest taxpayer-funded salary.
A Freedom of Information response from Ferguson Marine states: “A benchmarking exercise was conducted as part of the recruitment process to identify market rates.
“This was especially relevant for the turnaround director.
“The agreed fee was well within the benchmark and consistent with market rates which reflect the highly specialised nature of a role that requires senior level experience and a solid track record of transforming failing businesses.”
The Scottish Government took control of the yard after a stand-off with billionaire former owner Jim McColl over the increased cost of two CalMac vessels.
Construction had fallen years behind schedule and costs spiralled to twice the £97million original contract price. A Holyrood probe earlier this year branded the management process a “catastrophic failure”.
MSPs called for “root-and-branch” reform of the system involved in procuring ships for Scotland’s publicly owned ferry network.
The contract for Glen Sannox and an unnamed vessel, known as “hull 802”, was awarded in 2015.
It came a year after McColl stepped in to rescue the last commercial shipyard on the River Clyde.
But the first ferry – which was supposed to enter service on the Arran route in the summer of 2018 – is now not expected to be ready until next summer.
Hull 802, meanwhile, is destined for an Outer Hebrides route but is still being built on the slipway. The latest estimated price tag for both ships is just under £200million.
The Port Glasgow yard was nationalised by the Scottish Government in an administration process, meaning all funding is being met by taxpayers.
Tory MSP Edward Mountain, convener of the Holyrood committee probing the fiasco, said: “All parties involved must share in the responsibility for the catastrophic failure to deliver this contract on time or on budget.
“A lack of due diligence, poor project management and a failure by all parties to take the necessary action to resolve problems as they emerged means that the cost of the contract has increased from £97million to almost £200million while the island communities who are relying on theses ferries to be delivered continue to suffer.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it was an “operational matter for the business”.
In 2019, we revealed how Ferguson Marine brought in a management bonus scheme to “incentivise the key executive team” before plunging into administration and putting 300 jobs at risk.
A covering letter on accounts for 2016 – which were only filed in December 2018 – reveals the planned bonuses for top bosses.
Hair’s huge earnings put even Scotland’s highest paid fatcats in the shade. The Sunday Mail revealed last year how Janice Hewitt, North Lanarkshire’s former chief officer for health and social care, made £615,550 in a year.
Scottish Water CEO Douglas Millican meanwhile takes home a salary of about £310,000.
There is frequent criticism of university bosses, who often earn in excess of £200,000 a year.
Ferguson Marine director Gerry Marshall wrote that the firm’s future depended on keeping “key employees”.
However, the Scottish Conservatives last week suggested using more privatisation to improve ferry services.
The party wants to scrap Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the state-owned firm that owns ferries, ports and harbours, and use long-term contracts with ferry operators instead.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who is standing for Holyrood in the Highlands & Islands, where most of the ferries sail, said: “There are already private operators within the ferry industry in Scotland.
“We would look to get the best deal for people who rely on these as a lifeline service.”
CMAL owns 36 ferries, leasing 31 to state-owned CalMac for its Hebridean and Clyde routes and five to private Serco Northlink for the Orkney and Shetland routes.
But its procurement record has been under fire as a result of the Ferguson Marine scandal.
The Scottish Government has also lost millions attempting to rescue Ayrshire’s Prestwick Airport and the BiFab renewables plant in Fife.