BUSINESS minister Ivan McKee has insisted that the island harbour and port infrastructure will be ready to take the much-delayed new lifeline ferries when they finally set sail next year.

That's despite the fact that the Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator Calmac has already begun moves to use Troon rather than Ardrossan for the new ferry running to Arran from the summer of 2023 in a move that is expected to be around for around two years.

It comes as plans to upgrade Ardrossan to allow it to take the much-delayed Glen Sannox, scheduled to be sailing between March and May next year, 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.

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

The Herald on Sunday also revealed 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.

Mr McKee when pressed about the timescales for the infrastructure being ready initially said the it was already in place - but then later said that works in Ardrossan will be resolved before Glen Sannox was operational.

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.

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".

HeraldScotland: CalMac has been hit with performance-related fines of more than £3 million in the last year. Photo: Sharon Dalgoutte

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.

Mr McKee, was quizzed by Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, the former convenor of the rural economy and connectivity committee which branded the ferries management process a "catastrophic failure".

Mr McKee said the timetable targets for the launch of the two ferries, remains the same at over five years later than planned while costs remain at having risen from £97m to £250m.

Mr Mountain said: "The answer is they'll be delivered on the latest timescale and on the latest budget. We know there's only £30m left in the budget, and at least another 15 months of build time. So frankly, an overspend is probably inevitable, given the latest disastrous information on harbour upgrades, in what year would both ferries be operational on their planned routes? "

Mr McKee said: "As I had indicated the completion dates for those ferries are end of May 2023 and the end of December 2023 and both ferries will go into operation, obviously, after those dates and the work is continuing to make sure that the turnaround in the yard is delivering to those results. And also the yard has been increasingly becoming more competitive to allow it to compete for other business going forward. "

Mr Mountain responded: "So there we have, what we've got is a Scottish Government that doesn't even know when the infrastructure will be in place to allow the ferries to operate on the route. We've had a Scottish Government that has mucked up on the contract, the nationalisation of the yard, and will overspend their budget and will delay to build the harbour infrastructure that we so desperately need. What more could possibly have gone wrong?"

The minister replied: "The member is incorrect. The harbour infrastructure has been put in place to ensure the ferries can operate. And as I've said already, the completion dates for those ferries are as already indicated. And the work continues to make the yard more competitive so that they can bid for and win more work on the on the open market. And that's what this government is focused on saving the jobs, saving the shipyard making sure that commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde has a future. And if we'd listened to others we would not be in this position today. And we wouldn't have saved those more than 300 jobs over that period of time. That's what's important. That's what this government cares about the industrial future of that sector on the Clyde.

Tory shadow transport minister Graham Simpson retorted: "The minister has already been asked about harbour upgrades but didn't seem to give a very clear answer.

"The Ardrossan harbour task force was formed over six years ago. We still have no agreement on who is going to pay for what and when the work will be done. So can the minister say today when Ardrossan harbour will be ready to take the Glen Sannox."

Mr McKee said: "The member will be aware that of course Peel Ports is the owner of that facility. But the government is committed to making sure that this issue is resolved. My colleague the Minister for Transport [Jenny Gilruth] is working on this and has already said we're working to ensure that that's in place for when ferries will be operational."

In a consultation on the shift to Troon, CalMac stated: "Due to the introduction of new vessels and related infrastructure upgrade requirements at Ardrossan, the CalMac service will temporarily relocate to Troon in Summer 2023, when MV Glen Sannox is expected to enter service.

"CalMac will be conducting initial community consultations to discuss the planned move and the potential timetables which may be in place for around two years. "