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Procurement panel report and Interim ITT are published.
The first report from the Independent Procurement Reference Panel concludes that the first stage of the tender process for the contract to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) was fair, open and transparent.
The Panel was set up to provide assurance that nothing is being done in the procurement that could be perceived as discriminating against either of the bidders.
Both the report and the Interim Invitation To Tender (ITT) are available to view on the Transport Scotland website.
This Interim ITT document, which supersedes the Initial ITT issued in August, has been issued to both CalMac Ferries Ltd and Serco Caledonian Ferries Limited.
Minister for Transport and Islands Derek Mackay said:
"From the outset, we have pledged to make this a fair, open and transparent procurement process. The publication of both the first report from the Independent Procurement Reference Panel and the Interim ITT underlines that commitment.
"The first report from the Panel concluded that the terms of the Initial ITT process were fair, open and transparent to both bidders. The Panel has held two meetings which have proved very useful, and further meetings are scheduled to take place to review and provide comment on both the Interim ITT and Final ITT documents.
"The Interim ITT, and beyond that the Final ITT, have a slightly revised timeline, which will ensure both CalMac Ferries Ltd and Serco Caledonian Ferries Ltd are provided with all the information they require to compile their respective submissions. However, this will have no impact on the final award of the contract, which remains on schedule for the end of May 2016. The revised timetable is a consequence of the detailed and extensive consultation undertaken to date.
"I once again underline that, no matter the outcome of the procurement process, Scottish Ministers will retain control of all of important issues, such as fares and timetables, through the public service contract. Vessels and port infrastructure will also remain publicly owned as they are now. We remain focused on ensuring a fair and open competition that leads to getting the very best deal for all of the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides.
"As Minister for Transport and Islands, I'm well aware the crucial role our ferry network plays for the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides. The Scottish Government is committed to providing the best possible service and the recent announcements of a total freeze on ferry fares for 2016/17 and our investment in two new 100m vessels for the CHFS network show that we are focussed on delivering for those communities."
Both documents can be viewed at http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/ferries/clyde-and-hebrides
The Independent Procurement Reference Panel consists of representatives from the following organisations: Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, Argyll & Bute Council, North Ayrshire Council Highland Council, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Ullapool Harbour Trust, Scottish Trades Union Congress, National Farmers Union Scotland, Mobility Access Committee Scotland, Tiree Community Council, Islay and Jura Ferry Committee, Tiree Community Council, Isle of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, Arran Ferry Committee.