THE joint administrators of the ailing Ferguson shipyard have set a deadline of 5pm today for any interested parties to suggest a deal.

Any offers for the Port Glasgow business - which was the last commercial shipbuilder on the River Clyde - and its assets must be made by then.

The owners of McGills Buses, Sandy and James Easdale, have already declared their interest in the firm and in a statement they said they hoped to be be in a position to make a conditional offer.

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A statement from them said: "We note the exceptionally tight deadline. We have our valuation team in the yard today and will hopefully be in a position to make a conditional offer tomorrow."

Blair Nimmo, joint administrator and head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland, said he was "encouraged" by the interest shown in the business and said he feels buyers want to keep its heritage alive.

Ferguson's, which dates back to 1902, went into administration at the end of last week after "significant cash-flow pressure" in recent months.

A total of 70 employees were made redundant immediately.

Mr Nimmo said: "We have been encouraged by the level of initial interest in, and support shown for, Ferguson Shipbuilders, and we sense there is a desire to see its heritage maintained.

"By setting an early closing date we hope to establish whether it is possible to facilitate an early sale which may lead to the resumption of shipbuilding and ship repair activity at Port Glasgow in the short term."

Finance Secretary John Swinney told Holyrood on Tuesday that it was vital that new investors are found in the next few days.