SCOTS island port harbours are unable to take the ships at the centre of Scotland's ferry-building fiasco which have been delayed by up to five years, the Herald on Sunday can reveal.

While the delays and soaring costs over the completion of the two ferries due to serve lifeline routes to Arran and the Western Isles have caused a storm of protest - it has emerged that they would not have been able to operate on them anyway because of continuing delays in completing the over £130m project to get the island infrastructure ready to handle them.

Glen Sannox which was due to serve Arran in the summer of 2018 and is now scheduled to be sailing from March, next year at the earliest is not expected to be able to run on the lifeline island route for another three years at least.

And it has emerged that the much delayed second ferry Hull 802 may not even be able to operate to Skye as planned from October next year at the earliest because the port works will not be complete till the following December.

Plans to upgrade Ardrossan to allow it to take Glen Sannox have not yet even been put out to tender to allow contractors the chance to bid to do the work needed.

It is understood the hold up is because of complexities around how the £40m estimated cost will be divided between the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, the harbour owner Peel Ports and North Ayrshire Council. Neither Transport Scotland or Peel Ports were able to say how much the project would cost them.

One ferry user group official said: "It beggared belief what has happened to the ferries in the first place but the fact we are in a similar mess with infrastructure is just scandalous and really someone has to be brought to account for all that has gone wrong here."

In January the Arran Ferry Action Group asked Transport Scotland what the cost split would be, when an agreement would be reached and what steps were being taken to address outstanding issues and was told it was "commercially sensitive".

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Landside facilities including terminal building, car parking and other infrastructure are estimated to cost in the region of £12m and will not be ready till 2024 at the earliest.#

The Scottish Government has already provided a £400,000 contribution towards agreed design costs for the Ardrossan harbour infrastructure project paid to Peel Ports.

A further £250,000 funding contribution was made available to Peel Ports for the completion of a procurement stage.

Scottish Government-controlled CalMac is now looking to use Troon from the summer of 2023 instead adding travelling time for customers. The diversion is expected to be for around two years.

The harbour development on Skye's Uig that has been talked about for five years and was supposed to have finally been completed last year will is now not scheduled to be completed till December, 2023 - although the long delayed launch of the second vessel, Hull 802 was due to be ready in the summer of next year.

The ferry, which is to run on the Skye triangle route that links with North Uist had been due in service in the autumn of 2018. Transport Scotland confirmed that the works have 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 and next March was expected to disrupt services to Harris and also North Uist in the Western Isles - causing major concerns for many islanders.

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Uig provides Harris with its only direct route to the mainland, and one of two routes out of Uist.

The length of the works is scheduled to be cut from 24 weeks to 14.

Sam Bourne, chairman of the Arran Ferry Action Group described it as "another fine mess" saying any diversion to Troon adds 30% to the normal 55 minute passage time and will result in a drop in the number of journeys undertaken.

"We are looking at a very challenging two to three years ahead of us on Arran before we see any improvement to the service."

Works on the £16m project to get Lochmaddy on North Uist up to scratch was due to be completed in the spring of 2021, but are not expected to be completed till the spring of next year.

A contract with Ireland-based L&M Keating Ltd, was terminated in November, 2020, after an alleged failure to return to the site following the suspension of the works, initially in March due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and then again in July 2020.

The company fell into liquidation in early 2021.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has now engaged Barrhead-based civil and maritime engineers George Leslie Ltd to work on the upgrade.

The upgrade includes a pier extension and strengthening, new fendering and dredging aimed at allowing the Hull 802 to use the port.

The formed a key part of the Skye Triangle upgrade - which has seen total costs escalating.

The Scottish Government had already provided a £2m funding contribution towards the £10.1m L&M Keating Ltd contract.

Further payments of £435,000 wre made ion 2018/19, £659,781 in 2019/2020 and £954,493 in 2020/21.

A funding contribution of up to £15.7 has been made by ministers to the council for the George Leslie project.

In February, 2016, when the Ardrossan Harbour Taskforce was formed they were tasked with ensuring that the necessary infrastructure work for the use of Glen Sannox was in place.

Derek Mackay, then minister for transport and the islands said in launching the taskforce: “We are committed to supporting our lifeline ferry services and providing the best possible service for the communities that rely on them.

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“With this in mind, I want to ensure Ardrossan Harbour operates as effectively as possible and is ready for the arrival of the new 100-metre ferry that’s being built for the Ardrossan-Brodick route."

And Tom Docherty, chief executive of Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet said: "We look forward to working with the owner of Ardrossan Harbour and the other stakeholders on this taskforce to ensure we have a safe harbour, fit for purpose and that can accommodate a wider variety of vessels in our fleet, including the new dual fuel ferry."

Officially, Glen Sannox and Hull 802, will be delayed until at least next year – over five years later than planned while costs have at least doubled from £97m to £250m.

But it has emerged that technical problems including issues with 125 miles of cables are posing a new threat to a project to deliver Glen Sannox.

The latest nationalised Ferguson Marine analysis also reveals that there remains a concern that the number of faults outstanding are a risk to the acceptance of the two vessels currently languishing at their Inverclyde shipyard.

There had been past concerns that a spiralling catalogue of faults with vessels to serious shipyard concerns over whether they will ever see service.

In May, internal documents from nationalised shipyard firm Ferguson Marine admitted a serious risk that CMAL may not accept the vessels for the ferry operator CalMac’s lifeline services to Scotland’s island communities. Those concerns remain in the latest analysis.

A July CMAL update raised further concerns about delivery, saying that a Ferguson Marine project report from May "did not consider the significant threats posed by the continued risk of late cable installation".

It said that consideration is only given to the reinstatement of nearly 17 miles of cables removed from Glen Sannox in February.

But it said "no consideration" was given to the main body of cable installation that extended ship-wide totalling 125 miles.

And it said that the issues with cabling presents "a serious threat to the project".

A Peel Ports spokesman said: “We have provided around 80% of the funds required to progress the project up until this point, all of which is aimed at accommodating the specification of the new ferries.

"That is a £2m commitment by Peel Ports even before we can proceed with construction. We’ll continue to work with Transport Scotland and others on the procurement of this complex and specialist engineering project.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "The complexities around the commercial discussions on the project have been a factor in the delay."