By David Leask and

Tom Gordon

THE doubling of the bill for two vital CalMac ferries is to be investigated

by MSPs.

Ministers have announced that the final bill for ships to provide lifeline services to Scotland’s islands would now top £200m, up from £97m.

Officials also published a damning and detailed account of failures at the Port Glasgow yard building the vessels, Ferguson Marine.

The Scottish Government early this month nationalised the commercial shipbuilder, the last of its kind on the Clyde, after its business collapsed.

Ministers had earlier extended millions in loans to the yard, which was ultimately owned by an investment firm run by tax exile and SNP economic adviser Jim McColl.

Now Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee wants to interrogate the entire procurement and construction process – and look at what future prospects there are to supply vital ships for Scotland’s state-owned armada of ferries and fishery protection vessels.

Edward Mountain, the Tory MSP who chairs the committee, said: “Repeated delays to the planned schedule for delivery by Ferguson Marine of the two new hybrid ferries have been further complicated by the company’s entry into administration and the Scottish Government’s subsequent decision to assume public ownership.

“These developments clearly have important implications not only for the completion of the two vessels, but also for future plans for the replacement and refurbishment of vessels to meet the ongoing needs of the ferries network more generally.

“The committee wants to find out not only what has gone wrong and how things will be put right, but how these problems can be avoided in the future. We need to make sure that the relevant lessons from this saga are learned for the procurement and construction of new ferries in future.”

The SNP’s critics question why a contract for two relatively complex ships was granted to a business which proved incapable of managing such a project.

An exhaustive report from Ferguson Marine’s recently appointed turnaround manager, Tim Hair, catalogued serious concerns about the management of the yard before it was saved by the government.

Mr Hair said there had been a “lack of project management” and stressed that Fergusons’s had failed to log defects, despite around 350 being noted by CMAL, the Scottish Government firm which procures and owns ferries on behalf of CalMac. He also warned the two ferries were deteriorating and were not being properly cared for and that new managers were struggling to track local materials and parts for the boats.

One of the ordered ferries, code name 801, has been named Glen Sannox, and sits rusting at the dockside in Port Glasgow.

It was already supposed to be ferrying vehicles and passengers between Arran and the Ayrshire mainland. The hull of the second vessel, 802, lies rusting in the yard.

Mr McColl’s CBC did not respond to requests for comment from The Herald.

The businessman, however, told the Daily Mail that the previous management were looking at remarks from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay blaming “poor management of the previous management team”.

Mr McColl said: “The previous management are looking to see if this is defamation and they will sue him.”

The Monaco-based tycoon said it was “outrageous” to blame his team and said CMAL were “the core of the problem”. CMAL has strenuously denied wrongdoing, and said it had a fixed-price contract.

The Herald asked if the Scottish Government regarded Mr McColl as a fit and proper person to serve as an economic adviser.

Without directly addressing this question, a spokesman said advisers were under review.