TWO CalMac ferries being built by a firm owned by one of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisers in a £100m deal have been delayed yet again, the government has confirmed.

The two vessels were supposed to be with the ferry operator this summer and autumn, but have been now put back to next summer and spring 2020.

Opposition parties branded the situation a “complete shambles” and said it would add to passenger misery on strained CalMac services.

Scotland’s main ferry operator has already warned of disruption this summer because of breakdowns in its ageing fleet, with the average vessel on a lifeline route now 22 years old.

The new ‘dual fuel’ boats, which can use both diesel and liquified natural gas, are being built by Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd, owned by Monaco-based billionaire Jim McColl, a member of the First Minister’s council of economic advisers.

The delays were confirmed via an obscure written parliamentary answer.

The hold-ups come just weeks after Finance Secretary announced a £30m government loan to Ferguson’s to help it diversity, despite its boss being one of Scotland’s richest men.

The Port Glasgow firm was taken over by Mr McColl after it went into administration in 2014, and is ultimately owned by the engineering tycoon’s Clyde Blowers empire.

The year after Mr McColl acquired Ferguson’s it won a £97m contract to build two new ‘dual fuel’ ferries for CalMac, securing work for the 150 staff.

However the contract has not gone smoothly, with the first vessel, MV Glen Sannox on the Ardross-Arran route, delayed from May this year to winter 2018/19, before the latest snag.

The second vessel, known as Hull 802, which was supposed to be delivered to CalMac four months later for use on the Uig triangle, is now due to be delivered in 18 months’ time.

The vessels were ordered in 2014 by state-owned infrastructure company Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd for use by the state ferry company CalMac.

The delays are despite Mr McColl previously assuring SNP ministers over the timing.

At a March 2017 meeting with then economy secretary Keith Brown and then transport minister Humza Yousaf, Mr McColl said he was “astounded” that CalMac feared the delivery of the ferries could be 6-7 months late.

According to government notes of the meeting released under FoI, Mr McColl told the ministers he had “great confidence that the first vessel would be launched on schedule in August this year [2017] and delivered in May 2018 as per the contract”.

But in his parliamentary answer, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) has advised that the first vessel, the MV Glen Sannox (801), will be delivered during Summer 2019, and the second vessel (802) in Spring 2020.

“Following delivery, Calmac Ferries Ltd require around two months for trials and crew familiarisation before each vessel is fully deployed on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry network.”

He added: “While this further delay is disappointing, it is important to focus on the fact that we will have two new ships joining the fleet serving the Clyde and Hebrides network that have been built in Scotland, providing vital support to our ship building industry.”

Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Greene said: “Far from disappointing, this is a complete shambles.

“Numerous stakeholders have long been warning about a catalogue of issues with the build of the new ferries. Only recently the Scottish Government had to bail out Ferguson Marine with substantial money.

“This is another entry in a catalogue of failures on Scotland’s ferry networks, once again letting island communities down and impacting tourism, businesses and connectivity.”

LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles said: “Our roads are crumbling, our trains are unreliable and now there are more delays to the delivery of new ships for Scotland’s ferry network.

“The SNP are offering absolutely nothing to people on the move. Passengers on the west coast will have a sinking feeling once again when they find out these ferries are delayed.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth said ministers must “get a grip” and safeguard island communities.

He said: “They have known about delays in delivering these ferries for months.

"This isn’t the first time we’ve had delays when it comes to completing new ferries and it really does expose the utter incompetence and complacency at heart of the Scottish Government when it comes to delivering new transport projects.

"Demand for these services is rising and the Scottish Government are letting down our island communities once again by failing to deliver the ferries needed to meet that demand.”

Gerry Marshall, chief executive officer of Ferguson Marine, said: "These two dual-fuel LNG vessels are the first such vessels to be built in the UK and as such are prototypes.

“The authorities which certify the integrity and safety of the vessels and the integrity of the project have no precedent for such certification, and this part of the process has been more complex than with a standard vessel type and has impacted the delivery date.

“Overarching this however, has been the unforeseen complexities arising from our customer’s requirements throughout the project to date. These circumstances could never have been foreseen and taken into account in the original delivery dates.

“We must bear in mind however, the backdrop against which these world class vessels are being delivered - we have ree-stablished world class capability for commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde in Scotland after 40 years of underinvestment.

"The vessels which will be delivered to the new timetable and to the highest standard of quality, will become the jewels in the CalMac fleet."