FINANCE Secretary Derek Mackay has admitted he doesn’t know how much his decision to nationalise the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde could end up costing taxpayers.

Visiting Ferguson Marine Engineering in Port Glasgow, Mr Mackay said the government did not yet have “a full cost analysis”, despite committing itself to buying the yard in less than a month if no one else will.

Mr Mackay announced on Friday that the Government had taken control of Ferguson’s to stop it going bust after a £97m contract to build two CalMac ferries went disastrously wrong.

If administrators Deloitte cannot find a commercial buyer after four weeks, the business will be bought outright by taxpayers to safeguard around 350 jobs and complete the ferries.

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One boat is a year late, the other two years, and costs have at least doubled.

After taking over the yard, the government ordered a clear out of the senior management at Ferguson’s and appointed their own “turnaround director” to get it back on track and hire a new management team, including a new chief executive.

Speaking after chairing the first meeting of a Programme Review Board set up to finish the work, Mr Mackay said it would devise a “new delivery schedule for both vessels and a revised cost window”, and some workers laid off would now be re-hired.

Asked if there could be further costs, he said: “We will have to undertake a full cost analysis to be able to set out what will be required to complete these vessels and that’s what we’re undertaking... that process, that work, is under way now.

“We will have to look at the expertise in terms of what will be required to complete the vessels.

“If the government had walked away would never have been complete, the yard would have been closed and the jobs lost.

“I’m now setting about bringing together the necessary information to give reassurance that the vessels will be completed and be completed at the lowest cost to the taxpayer.”

The lack of hard numbers is likely to fuel opposition demands for a Holyrood inquiry into the Ferguson’s debacle, which has its roots in 2014 when Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers Capital bought the firm out of a previous administration.

Although the yard then won a contract for two dual-fuel ferries from CMAL, the state-owned firm behind CalMac, the deal was blighted by multiple design changes, delays and cash flow problems, with Clyde Blowers and CMAL blaming each other.

The Scottish Government loaned Ferguson’s £45m in 2017 and 2018 to keep it afloat, but it became insolvent after Mr Mackay rejected Mr McColl’s plan for the government to take a further stake to offset the ferry cost overrun in case it breached EU state aid rules.

Mr McColl, who sits on Nicola Sturgeon’s council of economic advisers, has accused ministers of “abusing their power” and failing to grasp basic economics.

The Government’s take over of Prestwick Airport has so far cost taxpayers £40m in loans, and a £13m stake in BiFab engineering in Fife has been written off.

Mr Mackay added: “We will bring in the necessary expertise to complete the objectives - which is to complete the vessels under construction and give the yard a future. The inaugural meeting was to bring together key people to take that work forward.

READ MORE: SNP ministers nationalise Clyde shipyard 

“This is essentially the first full day of government control. In terms of the contract that we had, it was a fixed price contract and clearly that’s not been delivered. The government has intervened. We are making a commitment to complete the vessels and safeguard the jobs and to give the yard a future.”

The nationalisation process has been welcomed by the trade unions with members on the yard, although they admit public ownership is not a “quick fix” and will bring challenges, including limits on the amount of private sector work the yard can compete for.

GMB Scotland Organiser Gary Cook said last week: “Our members were caught in the middle of a situation that had nothing to do with them and their relief will be palpable. It is five years since the yard went bust and the Scottish Government has prevented that from happening again.

“We can now look to the future and everyone should do so with a sense of purpose. With vision and competency we can get on with building the ships Scotland needs and together we can grow jobs and prosperity on the lower Clyde.”