First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made a hastily arranged visit to Ferguson Marine shipbuilders in Port Glasgow this morning to reveal that the firm is the preferred tenderer for a £97m contract to build two new ferries.

She made the announcement as Chancellor George Osborne flew into Faslane to trumpet an extra £500 million for the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

One of Scotland’s richest men, Jim McColl, acquired Ferguson Marine out of administration in September last year and recently revealed ambitious plans to grow the shipbuilding business which he hopes could result in the firm creating more than 1,000 jobs by 2020.

The new £97m contract to increase Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd’s (CMAL) fleet will secure employment for the existing 150-strong workforce.

The ships, which are expected to be delivered in 2018, are designed to carry more than 100 cars and up to 1000 passengers.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is an excellent result for Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) and I am delighted to name them as preferred tenderer for the contract to build two new ferries, the largest commercial vessels to be built on the Clyde since 2001.

“This contract will see the 150-strong workforce retained and more staff taken on at the shipyard, underlining our commitment to creating the vital jobs needed to boost local economies and help stimulate growth across Scotland.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting ferry users around Scotland by providing safe and reliable services, and this is the latest step to ensuring we have a fleet that continues to deliver for the communities that depend on it.”

Transport Minister Derek Mackay added: “This is a significant investment that proves Scottish shipbuilding can succeed in a competitive market, with the FMEL team submitting the highest quality bid that offered best value for money.

“The vessels themselves will be ‘dual-fuel ferries’, allowing them to use cleaner fuel and future-proofing them for the advent of tighter regulations around sulphur emissions. This announcement will strengthen our ferry fleet, ensuring they will be able to benefit the communities that need them for decades to come.”

Erik Østergaard, Chair of CMAL, said: “Subject to agreement on all points, we hope to be in a position to finalise the award of the contract later in September.

“We have undertaken a complex process of technical evaluation to ensure the new vessels will meet CalMac Ferries Ltd’s rigorous requirements on capacity, speed, draft and dual fuel capabilities, including the ability to operate to a wide number of harbours and routes over their lifetime. We are confident that the specification from FMEL can deliver on all of these conditions.

“We have worked with the team at Ferguson’s on the build of previous vessels for our fleet and most recently on our three smaller hybrid ferries and we look forward to continuing this successful relationship.”

George Osborne will visit Faslane today to announce an additional £500 million for ship lifts, sea walls, jetties and other major projects.

The work is expected to start in 2017 and will take a decade to complete. The new money is for work to ensure Faslane retains its position as a world leading naval base, the Treasury said.

Mr Osborne will say that the money will secure 6,700 jobs and create thousands more.