THE boss of the state-owned firm whose £97m order for two CalMac ferries saw the last civilian shipyard on the Clyde enter insolvency has vehemently denied his company was responsible.

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), instead blamed Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow for “design errors” on the dual-fuel vessels.

He claimed Ferguson’s had “failed to understand what the contract required and considered it acceptable to demand payments” for fixing its own mistakes.

Mr Hobbs makes the damning claims in a letter to the Herald today, written in response to CMAL being criticised by the owners of Canada’s largest shipyard, Davie in Quebec.

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In an interview with the Herald on Monday, Alex Vicefield and James Davies criticised CMAL for insisting on a fixed price for the boats, as design changes were inevitable given the new technology and evolving regulations around it.

The pair also criticised the Scottish Government for taking Ferguson’s into public control last month, saying ministers acted as if Scotland was a “banana republic”.

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With Ferguson’s in administration, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has said it will be nationalised unless a buyer is found within a fortnight to safeguard 350 jobs and ensure completion of the ferries, which are several years late and 100 per cent over budget.

Mr Vicefield and Mr Davies said their firm had gone through an almost identical experience with two dual-fuel vessels ordered by a state-owned firm in Quebec.

However, in their case, the Quebec government had appointed an independent expert to assess the contract and apportion costs, and so the dispute has been resolved, and the ships had been built.

They said that if Ferguson’s was nationalised it would be a “slow-motion car crash” for taxpayers and the workers, and the yard would “falter”.

Ferguson’s was bought out of a previous administration of 2014 by Jim McColl’s Clyde Blowers empire, then almost immediately won the order for the two CalMac ferries.

The contract was beset by design changes, delays and rising costs, with Ferguson’s blaming CMAL and CMAL blaming Ferguson’s.

Despite Mr Mackay given Ferguson’s £45m in state loans, cash flow problems forced it to call in administrators Deloitte two weeks ago.

There have since been around 20 expressions of interest from potential buyers, but no concrete bids.

Mr Coll offered to give the government a stake in the firm in return for absorbing half the over-run cost, but Mr Mackay refused on the grounds it would breach EU state aid rules.

In his letter, Mr Hobbs said he was disappointed to see “one-sided, highly ill-informed and misplaced statements” about CMAL fuelled by the Davie shipyard owners.

He said: “We reject the assertion we requested multiple design changes. Design changes are part of the shipbuilding process and our contracts, which are internationally recognised industry contracts, have an agreed change order process.

“FMEL failed to understand what the contracts required and considered it acceptable to demand payments for their design errors and subsequent re-design and re-work.

“CMAL cannot make extra payments unless claims are properly justified.”

Responding to the Davie yard owners’ claims that CMAL was naive about the protype ferry order, he went on: “There seems to be a misunderstanding that CMAL lacks shipbuilding experience.

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“We know shipbuilding and our experience outstrips that of the previous senior management team at FMEL.

“Our priority is the delivery of our two vessels. We are supportive of the shipyard workforce and believe a new ownership structure and senior management team will see the completion of the vessels that are desperately needed for island communities.”

Tory MSP Jamie Greene said: “SNP Ministers have yet to explain the cost to the taxpayer of nationalisation, yet to confirm if they can deliver the ferries, and have no clue what the negative effects of state ownership may have on the future prospects of the yard as a viable, commercial and successful operation.

“We need full transparency from the Scottish Government on the processes that led to the decision to nationalise, and what alternatives were considered.”

Mr McColl declined to comment.