MINISTERS have been accused of wasting millions over major changes to plans for the launch of vessels at the centre of Scotland's ferry fiasco.

Plans for the introduction of the 'green' vessels at the centre of debacle have been thrown into chaos as it can be revealed work on the £5m storage project has not started - while part of it has been scrapped altogether.

And concerns have been raised over a move to take one of the new ferries away from the Skye triangle routes altogether to serve Arran - despite a major £40m project to upgrade harbours in preparation for its arrival.

John Daniel Peteranna of the South Uist Business Impact Group, which organised a major demonstration about the state of Scotland's ferries in June was shocked by the developments and said: "It is more evidence of incompetence, incompetence and incompetence over ferries."

Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet signed off on the contract for two standalone liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations for two long-delayed and over-budget lifeline ferries in early April, 2020.

The project handed to Danish supplier Kosan Crisplant involved designing and installing Scotland's first LNG bunkering facilities at Uig on the Isle of Skye and at the North Ayrshire coastal town of Ardrossan.

They were due to be completed in July, 2022, to enable the vessels Glen Sannox and Hull 802 to be fuelled with LNG which Kosan Crisplant said at the time was cleaner than any other fossil fuel.

But CMAL has confirmed that work has still not started on the project and were unable to say when they would be completed.

The latest completion date given by the Danish supplier for the tanks is the "beginning of 2025" - well after the latest dates for the delivery to Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator CalMac of the much-delayed and over-budget vessels Glen Sannox and the so-far unnamed Hull 802.

Its last update from September 2022 said that the bunkering facilities would "strengthen the sustainable profile" of both Uig and Ardrossan.

Former transport secretary Jenny Gilruth told former justice secretary now East Lothian MP and Alba Party deputy leader Kenny MacAskill in December that the LNG infrastructure was scheduled to be in place in time for the arrival of the first dual fuel vessel.

The Herald: Kenny MacAskill

Now he has been told by the present encumbent, Fiona Hyslop in a letter that there is currently a review of the associated infrastructure requirements for LNG and until complete was unable to even provide an idea of the costs.

He said: "No costings but more importantly still nothing done. this is years now and we're supposedly months before it comes into service. Yet no LNG infrastructure.

"It just shows how insane the duel fuel system is."

But Highland Council has now said that the bunkering facility at Uig on the Isle of Skye is now no longer required as Hull 802 is no longer planned for the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris. It has been confirmed it will now serve with Glen Sannox on the Arran route.

But work is already at an advanced stage to prepare for Hull 802 with a delayed multi-million pound project to upgrade the harbour at Uig. The plans also involved upgrading the ports of Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

The council had said the infrastructure improvements were needed to "optimise operations" to prepare for the new vessel.

Transport Scotland said it was "wrong" to suggest the works on the ports on the Skye Triangle "are wholly associated with the introduction of the new vessels".

In the last update David Tydeman, chief executive of the nationalised Inverclyde shipyard firm Ferguson Marine said he was optimistic that Glen Sannox should be available to passengers in spring 2024.

The Herald: David Tydeman became CEO of Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow in February 2022

The delayed second vessel, only known as Hull 802 which which was supposed to be online in the last reschedule in the autumn of 2024 having already been delayed to the end of March 2024, is now pushed back to November, 2024. The contract backstop was stated as being at the end of December 2024.

Both vessels were due online in the first half of 2018, with one intitially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, but are at least five years late, with costs soaring from £97m to nearly £350m.

The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said there were plans for both vessels to be served by an LNG tanker until a permanent arrangement is secured.

CalMac has meanwhile begun moves to use Troon rather than Ardrossan for the services to and from Arran from the summer of 2023.

The move came as it emerged that as of September, last year, plans to upgrade Ardrossan to allow it to take the much-delayed Glen Sannox, had not even been put out to tender to allow contractors the chance to bid to do the work needed.

The Herald:

It was understood the hold up is because of complexities around how the £40m estimated cost would be divided between the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, the harbour owner Peel Ports and North Ayrshire Council.

Mr Peteranna of said: "You couldn't make this up. It is at the very least a waste of public money and more evidence of a lack of local knowledge and experience.

"I find the whole thing incredible.

"It seems they think it is okay it is just taxpayers' money so it doesn't really matter.

"The decision to shift the ferry away from us hit us hard. It is what has been keeping some people going."

A ferry user group official said that the latest developments continued to show how  "poorly planned" the ferry project has been.

"It has all gone from fiasco to farce, although I doubt even Monty Python would find all this very funny," he said.

Both Glen Sannox and Hull 802 were hailed as a step towards a greener future for Scotland's state owned CalMac ferry fleet as they were to be the first UK-built ships capable of running off LNG and marine gas oil.

LNG was seen as significantly cleaner and would help to reduce emissions to meet ambitious Scottish Government targets.

The Herald: Nicola Sturgeon with Ferguson Marine owner Jim McColl

They are the latest twists in the ferry scandal which has seen claims that the disastrous £97m contract to build two lifeline vessels was rigged in favour of Ferguson Marine run by Jim McColl, who rescued the yard in the summer of 2014 in a move partly brokered by former First Minister Alex Salmond, who kept the entrepreneur abreast of businesses that needed saving.

The shipyard firm went into administration again in August, 2019 - just over a year after a second Scottish Government bailout loan amidst soaring costs and delays in the construction of the ferries. Ferguson Marine was nationalised with Scottish Government-owned ferry procurer CMAL blaming each other for what went wrong.

The Herald on Sunday has previously revealed problems that the delayed Hull 802 may not even be able to operate to Skye as planned from October this year because the port works were not expected to be complete till the following December.

The harbour development on Skye's Uig that had been talked about for five years and was supposed to have finally been completed in 2021 was not scheduled to be completed till December this year.

Transport Scotland confirmed in September, last year, that the works had added £6m to the estimated £38m cost of the project. It said the original finish date of March, 2023 was shifted after the original plans to start work on the Uig pier in October "were not acceptable to island communities".

The original closure of the Uig pier between October last year and March was expected to disrupt services to Harris and also North Uist in the Western Isles - causing major concerns for many islanders.

The Herald:

Transport Scotland previously said the original finish date of March, 2023 was shifted after the original plans to start work on the Uig pier in October "were not acceptable to island communities".

The original closure of the Uig pier between October and next March was expected to disrupt services to Harris and also North Uist in the Western Isles - causing major concerns for many islanders.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The works on ports on the Skye Triangle, such as those at Uig, include the replacement of life expired infrastructure, improving resilience and maximising the range of vessels that can use the ports.

“It is wrong to suggest these works are wholly associated with introduction of the new vessels.

“The plans for the Ardrossan harbour redevelopment include an LNG storage facility that is being taken forward as part of these plans. The vessels will initially operate from Troon where new facilities have been put in place to support this. Vessels are to be bunkered by LNG tanker until a more permanent arrangement is secured."

A CMAL spokesperson said: “LNG facilities will be constructed within the Ardrossan Harbour redevelopment project, which is led by Peel Ports Group, owners of Ardrossan Harbour. As these will be part of the overall programme of work, we do not yet have a timescale for construction of the bunkering facilities.”

A CalMac spokesman added: "We are progressing plans to bunker LNG at Troon and the next multi-agency meeting to discuss the details is taking place at Troon in September."