MINISTERS are considering nationalising a Clyde shipyard owned by a billionaire adviser to Nicola Sturgeon, amid a protracted row over the building of two ferries.

The Scottish Government is reportedly drawing up plans as it struggles to solve a long-running dispute over costs at Ferguson shipyard.

Ferry builders Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), a public body that owns CalMac’s fleet and assets, have been at loggerheads for months over delivery of the vessels.

The row centres on rising costs for the construction of two long-awaited lifeline ferries – now thought to be almost double the original £97m contract price.

Scottish ministers argue Ferguson Marine, owned by Scots tycoon Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers firm, should foot the extra bill.

If this cannot be agreed, the BBC reported nationalisation is among the options being considered.

The ongoing saga casts a shadow over a yard hailed as the last of its kind in a city once famed for shipbuilding.

Mr McColl, a high profile Yes supporter, rescued it from administration in 2014, just days before the independence referendum. He sits on Nicola Sturgeon’s council of economic advisers.

But Scottish Tory shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser insisted nationalising the yard is not the answer.

He said:“Responsibility for this mess begins and ends with the SNP government. It was Alex Salmond and his ministers who sought political gain when they brokered the deal to save Ferguson before the independence referendum in 2014, in a headline-grabbing move. Now, five years later, Scottish taxpayers are facing the consequences of that action.

“Nationalising the yard isn’t the answer and it won’t help Ferguson as it seeks to bid for new contracts.

“However, it appears the SNP’s desire to control everything in Scotland – on the taxpayer’s expense – trumps common sense. SNP ministers now must sit down with management to find a way forward – not walk back to the 1970s and a solution that won’t work.”

One of the Ferguson Marine ferries, MV Glenn Sannox, which is destined for the Arran-Ardrossan route, was due to enter service last summer.

The second, known as Hull 802, was supposed to be delivered to CalMac in the autumn of last year for use on the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert triangle. Both are delayed.

MSPs have previously raised concerns over £45m-worth of loans from the Scottish Government to Ferguson Marine.

It comes amid rising fears over CalMac’s ageing fleet and the ongoing impact on lifeline ferry services.

A spokesman for Ferguson Marine said: “We continue to engage with both the Scottish Government and CMAL, and remain fully committed to securing the long-term future of the yard.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it is “focused on supporting the yard, completing the vessels and ensuring the future of shipbuilding at the site”. He added: “We are working with partners to deliver that outcome.”

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said protecting jobs and ensuring that Ferguson shipyard has a future must be the immediate priority.

He said: “Ferguson’s is a major employer in Inverclyde and shipbuilding has a long history in my constituency. My father worked in Ferguson’s and the yard matters to me.

“The Scottish Government’s central focus on keeping the workforce in jobs, getting the ferries built and operational and ensuring the yard has a future is one I hope everyone can get behind.

“Everyone wants the yard to be a successful business, but I am reassured that the government is preparing for all eventualities and appears so focussed on a future for the yard and the workforce.

“I know that dialogue between FMEL and the Scottish Government continues and I am determined to see an outcome which continues Port Glasgow’s shipbuilding tradition.”

Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said the party “will support all efforts to ensure the future of the shipyard is protected”.

She added: “But serious questions must now be asked over the SNP’s role in awarding these ferry contracts in the first instance.”