NICOLA Sturgeon’s government has been accused of “abusing its power” by one of the First Minister’s own economic advisers.

Billionaire Jim McColl launched the attack over the troubled ferry contract that threatens to put the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde into administration.

He said SNP ministers were “throwing away” the chance to see Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow land new orders and thrive.

He said: “We get soundbites from ministers, tweeting about finishing the ferries and saving the jobs in the yard. It’s all PR. There’s no economic sense behind what they’re doing.”

Mr McColl’s criticisms came ahead of a critical week for Ferguson’s, which took the first steps towards administration last Friday, putting 350 jobs at risk.

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine shipyard warns it is on brink of administration

The yard was bought out of administration by Mr McColl’s Clyde Blowers investment firm in 2014, on the eve of the referendum, then quickly won a £97m public sector contract.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which is owned by the Scottish Government, ordered two innovative dual-fuel ferries for its CalMac operation.

But the contract has been blighted by design changes, repeated delays and a runaway budget, with costs understood to have doubled from the original price.

Despite the government giving loans of £45m to Ferguson Marine to keep it afloat, the firm has been at loggerheads with ministers and CMAL for months.

Mr McColl, who sits on the FM’s council of economic advisers, proposed the government absorb around half the over-run costs in return for an equity stake.

However ministers refused, citing EU state aid rules. CMAL also insists Ferguson Marine took on the contract with its eyes open and cannot complain about its technical difficulty.

READ MORE: Sturgeon adviser firm told no more cash on £97m ferry deal

SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has suggested the government may nationalise the yard to end the crisis, but after overseeing a £30m investment, Mr McColl is determined to avoid that.

A source close to the situation told The Herald the stand-off would end in court, and that Mr McColl had “lots of emails” from Ms Sturgeon that could prove awkward for her.

Speaking to the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Mr McColl confirmed legal action was a possibility.

He said: “All options are on the table, believe me.”

Attacking the government’s lack of foresight, he said: “The way they are acting right now is economically damaging for the local area and for Scotland. Anybody with a Standard grade in economics would be able to work this out , it’s not rocket science.”

He added: “The Government should not be abusing their power like this.”

Mr McColl, who made his fortune in Scotland but is now based in Monaco, said CMAL had “buried their heads in the sand” and refused to meet extra costs.

He went on: “It’s more frustrating that the Government have not stood up top CMAL - it’s a wholly-owned government entity. The simple problem here is they need to pay the actual costs to get the ferries that they have asked Ferguson’s to build.

“We’ve got a high probability of winning the Type 31 destroyer orders. There’s another order, worth half a billion pounds, for offshore patrol vessels for Bangladesh.

“They would transform the yard. Employment would go up by between 600 and 700. They’re throwing all this away. It flies in the face of economics.”

He said nationalising the yard would cost the government “double” his plan.

Scottish Tory MSP Jamie Greene said the two-year delay to the ferries was hurting the island communities they were supposed to serve.

He said: “The immediate priority must be to protect the hundreds of shipyard workers, secure the future of the yard and see through the conclusion of the ferry building.

“But we must not understate the significance of where we are now and the role that the SNP administration has played in this.

“Put simply, SNP ministers have recklessly mismanaged this contract, wasted millions of pounds of public money and put the entire Scottish marine industry at risk.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our priority remains to ensure the completion of the vessels under construction, secure jobs for the workforce, and protect the future of shipbuilding at the site and the Scottish Government is working to achieve that.

"We have aimed to work closely with all partners involved in this process to find a workable solution that can provide a future for the yard.

“Scottish Ministers fully considered Clyde Blowers Capital’s proposal, but concluded that it contained a number of serious risks and could not be taken forward. It offered no certainty on the overall final cost of both vessels and saw no money from CBC themselves being invested into the yard. There were also serious concerns that entering into the proposal would have been unlawful.”

“In the absence of any offer of additional funding into the business from CBC, FMEL or any other party, we have been actively considering other options, including public ownership and remain keen to reach a conclusion on this matter.

“We also remain open to considering viable alternative options, and will continue to work with all partners to reach a constructive solution that can deliver both the vessels and safeguard jobs for those who work in the yard.”