A £25m contract to maintain and service a large chunk of Scottish Government-owned lifeline ferries has been awarded to an English shipbuilder over a Scots company that has been supporting vessels on the Clyde for over 100 years.

Concerns have been raised over how the deal to maintain and service six Scottish Government owned lifeline ferries was given to Merseyside shipbuilder Cammell Laird over Aberdeen-headquartered Dales Marine who have operations in the Garvel Dry Dock in Greenock.

There is concern on the impact on jobs in what is one of the most deprived parts of Scotland.

It is the latest controversy to hit Scotland's ferry services, with the tremors of a row over the doubling of costs of two long delayed lifeline vessels being built at Ferguson Marine still being felt.

It comes after the Herald on Sunday revealed that ferry users have joined forces to condemn the design of the nation's lifeline ferries saying they are too big for the islands they serve and are overburdening the taxpayer.

There are growing calls for a shake-up over over the ferry procurement decision making involving the nation's ferries which some feel led to the country's ferry building fiasco.

There has been criticism that the process, involving a "closed group" of Scottish Government-controlled bodies - Transport Scotland as funders, the procuring and ferry owning company, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and ferry operators Calmac.

READ MORE: Anger as Scotland's ferry fleet deemed too 'big for islands and a taxpayer burden'

The new contract award is the first of a £58m deal to maintain and overhaul some of the CalMac vessels.

The 48 months of work will be for five of the CalMac fleet serving the nation's ferries -  MV Clansman, MV Loch Seaforth, MV Lord of The Isles, MV Finlaggan and MV Hebrides.


Chris McEleny, former leader of the Inverclyde Council SNP group said the the Garvel dry dock currently employs over 50 staff with the CalMac ferry support contracts being a major part of their workload and ability to take on new apprentices to train a new generation in the marine craft on the Clyde.

The time served electrician on the Clyde who is bidding to be a party candidate for next year's Holyrood election is taking issue with both CalMac and the Scottish Government stating that contracts relating to the rest of the CalMac fleet must come to Greenock and that "no stone should be left unturned to ensure that the huge financial benefit provided by support contracts for Scottish Government owned ferries must be given to workers and communities on the Clyde".

Cammell Laird is 50 per cent owned by Peel Group, which started acquiring vast swathes of the Clyde in 2004, including shipyards and dry docks, after buying the once publicly owned Clydeport.

John Whittaker, who created Peel, is resident in the tax haven of the Isle of Man.

He said a campaign has been growing in Inverclyde in opposition to Peel’s ownership of almost all of the Greenock waterfront which they secured on a 125-year lease for just £1 a year in 2008.

In early 2019, Cammell Laird faced criticism for failing to make good use of the Inchgreen Dry Dock in Greenock, the largest mainland dry dock in the UK, with allegations the facility had been sidelined to protect jobs at their other yards on Merseyside.

Politicians and campaigners demanded action to develop Inchgreen after it emerged £5m of aircraft carrier work had been awarded to Babcock at Rosyth on the Firth of Forth.

In February, MSPs were invited to take a look at what was called a steady pipeline of activity lined up at Inchgreen Dry Dock for the months following completion of the Ocean Terminal cruise ship pontoon.

Local representatives Stuart McMillan MSP and Ronnie Cowan MP were invited by Peel Ports to Inchgreen to see for themselves the various projects underway at the multipurpose facility.


Mr McEleny said: "Millions of pounds to maintain Scottish Government owned CalMac Ferries could be getting spent in Inverclyde supporting jobs here but instead the contracts are going to Merseyside. This is bad for jobs on the Clyde and dreadful for the environment.

"Inverclyde is the most deprived community in Scotland. We have the capacity and the ability to have all of this work carried out here on the Clyde. This would support jobs, help create apprenticeships and be a much needed multi million pound boost to our area.

"Surely no rational person can support Clyde and Hebrides ferries sailing south to be worked upon when that work, and all the economic benefits that comes with it, can be carried out here in Scotland?

"This work must be carried out on the Clyde."

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: “CalMac has an obligation to put contracts out to tender so that the process is as fair and transparent as possible. A range of factors, including value for money and efficiency, are always taken into account before bids are awarded.

"We operate a lifeline service across the western isles and it is vital that passengers receive the highest standard of service possible. This includes making sure that vessels are maintained to a high standard and that the likelihood of breakdowns are reduced."

Transport Scotland was approached for comment.