MINISTERS have come under fire for continuing to withhold vital information about the revised timelines and costs over the delivery of long-delayed lifeline ferries under construction at nationalised Ferguson Marine.

Business minister Ivan McKee minister was quizzed about the continuing delays to Glen Sannox and Hull 802 currently languishing in the Inverclyde shipyard.

It came as concerns continued to surface over the awarding of two contracts to a Turkish yard worth £105m for ferries to serve Islay.

Shadow transport secretary Graham Simpson MSP demanded answers over the rise in costs and delays expected after it emerged that up to 1000 cables would have to be ripped out of one of the Glen Sannox because they were too short to reach control panels.

After a survey it was found that there were at least 400 problem cables - and a worse case scenario of 939 cables.

An analysis from former turnaround director Tim Hair revealed that addressing the problem is a "time-consuming process" that will further delay the project to deliver the Glen Sannox which was due to serve on one of Scotland's busiest crossing, the Ardrossan to Arran service in May, 2018.

He said it would also further delay the completion of the second vessel known as Hull 802 which was also supposed to be sailing in July, 2018.

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Mr Hair said that at the time it was "not possible" to determine the impact on schedule and cost.

When asked Mr McKee said a report about the impact would be made available "very shortly".

Mr Simpson, a Scottish Conservative MSP for Central Scotland responded: "Well, I'm asking a question in this in this chamber, and I expect to get an answer and the minister has not made an attempt to answer the question, which is by how long, the ferries are delayed.

"It is not acceptable. We're at a crisis point here. Now just yesterday, only 13 out of CalMac's 29 routes were operating normally. Islanders are at their wits' end. There's no slack in the system, so when a ferry breaks down, the knock on effects are horrendous."

The state-owned ferry operator CalMac is having to handle an ageing ferry fleet with Glen Sannox and Hull 802 still languishing in Port Glasgow as the costs of their construction have more than doubled from the original £97m contract and delivery is nearly five years late.

The debacle led to shipyard firm Ferguson Marine led by tycoon Jim McColl, who first rescued the yard going bust, leading to a Scottish Government takeover.

"We need a steady pipeline of new ferries being ordered," said Mr Simpson.

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The Turkey order was part of Transport Scotland’s £580m plan to boost ferries over five years and Mr Simpson said that outgoing transport minister Graham Dey had asked for £1.5bn over 10 years.

"That kind of commitment would give Scottish yards the confidence to invest including Ferguson's so if Graham Dey knew what needed to be done, why doesn't the minister."

Mr McKee responded: "The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that Scotland's islands have got the connectivity. That's why we are making that substantial investment into ensuring that that is indeed the case. The details of the impact of that cable issue are being worked through at the moment and we will report back when the robust information is available as to the implications in terms of time and cost of that particular issue."

The row surfaced after it emerged that an MSPs visit to the Inverclyde shipyard at the centre of the ferry fiasco was pushed back by nearly three months from January 11 to April 4.

And a Freedom of Information request in January 2022 regarding the updated construction timelines for the stricken ferries, has yet to be answered within the 20 working day target and is now subject to a formal appeal.

The Scottish Government confirmed that their FOI response is “taking longer than expected.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, the former convenor of the rural economy and connectivity committee which branded the management process a "catastrophic failure" has also called out the SNP for their "secretiveness" over the future of the delayed vessels and their lack of openness in the MSPs visit.

In January, serious questions were raised over the viability of both vessels as it emerged key hull features had been left off seven years after the design was completed.

Ministers carried out a takeover after Jim McColl-led Ferguson Marine went into administration in August, 2019 following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) - the taxpayer-funded company which owns and procures ferries for the Scottish Government - over the construction of the ferries under a £97m fixed price contract.

Ferguson Marine said there had been "unforeseen complexities" with the project, leading to soaring costs of the ferry contract - which have now more than doubled.

Ministers believe they were acting in the public interest in taking control of Ferguson Marine, as it saved the yard from closure, rescued more than 300 jobs and ensured that the two vessels under construction will be completed.

The two new dual-fuel ferries, which were meant to be identical, were once 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 liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as well as conventional diesel.

After the parliamentary session, Mr Simpson said: “Ivan McKee showed a blatant disregard for island communities today by dodging questions on Scotland’s ferry provision.

“The business minster made no attempt to answer for the SNP’s inadequate long-term ferry funding, or explain why the Government’s much-needed report into ferry procurement still hasn’t been published.

“He also refused to say who was responsible for fitting cables that are too short or what the delay will be as a result of this fiasco.

“This is typical arrogance from an SNP government that considers itself above all scrutiny, in spite of a shocking record of failures."