AS I write, the Caledonian MacBrayne website shows weather warnings or cancellations on 27 of 29 routes. There is not a lot moving and few people travelling in or out of the islands.

Still, the freight must get through so services are gallantly maintained, albeit by an ageing fleet. Vessels 801 and 802, currently in some undefined state of unreadiness at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow, were supposed to address these challenges by now on the Arran and Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy routes.

Instead, they have become symbols of what Holyrood’s Rural Affairs committee described as a “catastrophic failure” of procurement processes. The saga doubtless has a long and legalistic passage to run. Meanwhile, the islands will continue to need modern, reliable ferries.

Out of this mess, it should still be possible to identify opportunity as well as catastrophe. However botched the process, too crudely tied to a short-term political imperative, the intention of building these ferries on the Clyde to save an ailing yard was honourable enough.

The conclusion should not be “never again” so much as “get it right in future”. That requires a strategy rather than ad hoc actions. It needs a belief – self-evident elsewhere in northern Europe – that a nation’s maritime status should sustain, and be sustained by, a healthy shipbuilding sector.

We will never again build great ocean liners on the Clyde but the disappearance of that tradition has been translated too easily into the shorthand that “shipbuilding is finished”, apart from the BAe yards tied to Ministry of Defence orders, which are secure for the next 20 years.

But need it be like this? As the Holyrood committee’s report put it: “The Scottish Government’s approach to the procurement and construction of new vessels … has been short-term, piecemeal and lacking in strategic direction”. Change that state of affairs and a lot of opportunities arise – and they extend beyond CalMac ferries.

It is at least possible that Brexit creates that opening. For decades, membership of the EU was blamed for our inability to use public procurement as a means of supporting our own basic industries, and none more so than shipbuilding. If that can be changed, then let us have the good grace to recognise it.

From my own experience, I think the EU was more an excuse than a reason. In the CalMac case, there was a long-term civil service agenda in Edinburgh to fragment and privatise. This eventually led to the separation of infrastructure and operations, the theory being that any operator could then compete to use ferries and piers.

I remember discussing this with the most senior relevant official in Brussels who insisted the Commission was not interested in Scottish ferry services but “if something is waved under our nose often enough we have to do something about it”. So the split was created between an infrastructure company (CMAL) and the operators, who have – despite the theology of the issue – continued to be CalMac.

Now we are outside the EU, I would scrap CMAL and replace it with an agency with a wider remit to use public procurement to the maximum advantage of the Scottish shipbuilding and marine engineering sector – with the prize of industrial revival and skilled jobs in parts of Scotland, particularly the Clyde, that desperately need them.

A “white paper” on this theme, produced by the Glasgow-based Malin Group, estimates close on a billion pounds worth of vessels are in the Scottish public sector pipeline; not just CalMac but local authority ferries, fisheries protection, Northern Lighthouse Board and so on. But how much will stay in Scotland? On current form, very little.

Public procurement, their report concluded, is “the essential foundation” for reviving civil shipbuilding on the Clyde with all available facilities brought into play to provide the flexibility that proved to be lacking at the Ferguson yard alone.

Add in the requirements of aquaculture and renewable energy, which can certainly be guided by Scottish Government policies and requirements, and the potential order book for a Scottish shipbuilding revival becomes even more promising. It is an exciting vision.

However, it certainly will not happen without firm policy leadership and co-ordination. If all these public sector bodies continue to do their own thing, the opportunity will be lost. We will still be building ferries in Germany and Denmark while the industrial work-boats float over from Holland.

There is responsibility too on the UK Government to make this possible. How are the terms of Brexit going to be interpreted? Are there to be new freedoms to use public procurement as the key to industrial regeneration? And if not, then what is the point?

It is a classic example of why the two Governments need to work together towards a shared objective. Potential positives for the Scottish economy should not be shunned just because they can, in part at least, be attributed to leaving the EU. There are plenty disadvantages, so we might as well have some advantages also.

None of this ignores the need for home-based industries to be competitive. In the longer-term, it may be unsustainable to force public bodies to pay more for vessels that could be procured from elsewhere in Europe as has become the norm. But there should surely be an opportunity to put that to the test.

Scottish public procurement as the basis of a Scottish shipbuilding revival. From whatever political perspective, what is there not to like?

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.