THE First Minister has been told to take personal responsibility for ensuring the completion of two delayed and over-budget ferries finally provide the lifeline services they were being built to provide.

The demand has come as Scottish Lib Dems pushed for resignations if the timetable for the completion of two delayed and over-budget ferries is missed again.

Scottish Lib Dems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton who moved a parliamentary motion said the SNP had to be more accountable over who sanctioned the award of the ferries fiasco contract in the first place in a scandal that he said threatened Nicola Sturgeon's premiership.

SNP finance minister Ivan McKee batted away claims that there could be a breach of ministerial code of conduct over record keeping failures after Audit Scotland said there was not a proper record over a controversial decision to award the ferry fiasco contract to the Jim McColl-led Ferguson Marine in 2015.

He said that there were already 200 documents in the public domain about the process the Scottish Government went through and that ministers was committed to "open government" and "values and encourages accountability".

The two ferries, Glen Sannox and an unnamed vessel known as Hull 802 will be delayed until at least next year – five years later than planned.

READ MORE: Taxpayers lose £80m after ministers' gave £100m carrot to ensure ferries deal went to Ferguson Marine

The first ship was meant to enter service on the Arran route in the summer of 2018 but is not expected to be ready until next year at the earliest - five years late. Hull 802, destined for an Outer Hebrides route, has gone the same way. The latest estimated cost for both ships is at least around a quarter of a billion pounds, off an original fixed contract price of £97m.

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Both remain at the state-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, which was saved from administration in 2018 when a number of problems were discovered.

Since, the yard has come under scrutiny repeatedly in Parliament, most recently after an Audit Scotland report found that ministers went ahead with the contract despite a full refund guarantee not being on offer and concerns raised by the Government’s ferry procurement body, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).

It follows email correspondence that revealed the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes wanted to keep a note of her meetings with staff at Ferguson Marine private in August last year.

It revealed the extent of negativity from staff at the yard.

In a debate on Wednesday, a motion amendment from Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet minister Neil Bibby called on the First Minister to "lead government efforts to secure the completion of the vessesl by taking ministerial responsibility for government investments in Ferguson Marine".

He calls on the Scottish Government to confirm whether a ministerial direction was issued in awarding the ferry fiasco contract to Ferguson Marine and to publish a copy of any such direction.

He said: "There must be a full public inquiry, there must be clarity of ministerial decisions in relation to the award of contracts without full refund guarantees there must be maximum transparency.

"The truth is that responsibility for this fiasco goes straight to the top.

"We ask parliament to support our call for the First Minister to assume responsibilities for the Fergusons's fiasco."

Kate Forbes has previously sidestepped questions about which minister signed off on the £97m deal to build two CalMac ferries, but insisted that it did not breach any procurement rules.

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Public spending auditors said ministers approved the calamitous ferries contract despite being warned that it carried “significant risks” for taxpayers as it lacked usual financial safeguards including a builders' refund guarantee.

The Herald on Sunday revealed that taxpayers lost over £80m after ministers provided a £106m special incentive to ensure that the contract could go through without the normal financial safeguards.

The deal was set up to ensure the CalMac ferries contract was given to Ferguson Marine in October, 2015, to reassure ferry owners and procurers, state-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) who had "severe misgivings" over the yard's inability to provide financial guarantees were not out of pocket if anything went wrong .

But in the end the taxpayer ended up out of pocket to the tune of over £80m when the Inverclyde shipyard firm went under in August, 2019 - while the costs of the two ferries at the centre of the debacle continue to escalate.

Ministers approved a £106m public money loan with special provisos to CMAL to protect them and would normally have been expected to pay off the loan over 25 years using revenue it generates from the fees they get from the lease of vessels like CalMac's ferry fleet and harbour access charges.

But the £82.5m that had been drawn down from the loan has become a taxpayer loss as CMAL says it was "eliminated" after Ferguson Marine went into insolvency.

The Lib Dems motion now seeks to force the resignation of the responsible minister if the timetable is missed again.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton who moved the motion said: "When it comes to sharing information about decisions, nobody can say how the government came to decide to give the contract to Ferguson Marine in the first place.

"Open government also aims to support people to influence decisions. But no-one could claim the islanders have been at the heart of this process. In fact, decisions were reportedly being taken because they fit in with the SNP conference timetable, not because they were necessarily the right decisions for islanders.

"What about the lofty aim of encouraging accountability and responsibility? Well, we've had the finance secretary [Kate Forbes] telling us she couldn't say who made the decision then the First Minister dancing around who gave the sign off before conveniently attaching it to Derek Mackay [then transport minister].

"It is awfully convenient for Nicola Sturgeon that the latest scandal threatening her government and indeed her premiership can be neatly blamed on someone who has since departed politics.

"But if we're to take the First Minister at her word, Derek Mackay should appear before Parliament to give his side of the story and to confirm that the First Minister and the rest of her Cabinet had no input into the deal set to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions more than originally scheduled."

He opened his motion by saying: "The situation at Ferguson Marine has been called many things - a fiasco, a scandal, a farce. It has been described as the height of incompetence and a complete mess.

"While these descriptions are no doubt accurate, it's important that Parliament does not become obsessed with process and pantomime, and lose sight of the real life impact this has as a result, because the reality is this situation is harming communities every single day.

"This isn't just a parliamentary soap opera there are communities to whom promises were made. Those promises are not kept. That is what our debate is about today being about how these communities came to experience years of disruption, with years more disruption still to come."

SNP finance minister Ivan McKee said: "I have made it very clear this government is committed to expanding the fleet providing new vessels as quickly as we can and that's significant investment of £580m.

"We accept that the delivery of ferries face challenges, but the Scottish Government is crystal clear what we expect from Ferguson Marine in delivery of the vessels, as well as turning the business around to make it competitive. I fully recognise the critical nature of completing those vessels for the sake of island communities, and many people are dependent on that being the case."

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said: "The challenges have been great. Progress has not been as fast as we would have liked. I made my views abundantly clear to the chief executive and the chair that these vessels must be delivered.

"The board is ultimately required to deliver on our clear expectations for the business. Those expectations are threefold. One, they must complete those vessels. successfully, and at the fastest most achievable pace, they must make the yard competitive, productive and efficient. And they must win further work on the basis of the yard's ability to deliver."

Because of the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens in Holyrood, the motion was not expected to pass.