Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said he has “concerns” over the latest allegations that the awarding of the ferries fiasco contract to Ferguson Marine was rigged and has promised a re-examination.

A BBC documentary claims that the shipyard under tycoon Jim McColl was allowed to change the design during the tendering process, making its pitch almost £10m cheaper.  CMAL said the process, that also involved another bidder, was normal.

There was also a confidential meeting between the yard and the Scottish Government’s ferry procurement body Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) – a courtesy not extended to other bidders in the process.  CMAL says other technical clarificatioin meetings were held with other bidders digitally, given their non- UK locations.

It also claims Ferguson obtained a 424-page 'crib sheet' from a design consultant setting out CalMac's technical requirements, while other bidders had to rely on a more limited 125-page specification.  But CMAL insist this was not provided by them.

It also says that CMAL,  the Scottish Government-controlled firm that owns and procures CalMac’s ferries may have broken its own rules by allowing Ferguson to go ahead with its bid despite being unable to provide evidence of a builders refund guarantee, a mandatory financial safeguard.

The Herald revealed in May that Ferguson Marine failed to fulfil mandatory requirements to qualify as the ferry fiasco contract bidder raising fresh questions about the legality of the procurement process.

That evidence showed that the tycoon's shipyard firm which was favoured by the SNP government could not give a commitment to provide a mandatory builder's refund as required and was unable to provide other crucial financial details including records of past achievements.

The fails were revealed in a confidential Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) completed by Ferguson before it was ever even considered as a preferred bidder for the building of two lifeline ferries to serve Scotland's islands.

Particular focus has fallen on the failure of Ferguson to offer a builder’s refund guarantee, which would have protected public money once construction ran into problems - which it did.

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The PQQ stated that an inability to meet mandatory requirements would result in exclusion not just from any future bidding process, but from the scoring exercise itself. That would mean failing at the first of what was a three-step procurement hurdle.

The guarantee had to be in place before work started and bidders such as FMEL had to provide an "evidentiary statement" in the form of a letter from the bank confirming a willingness to provide the guarantee "if requested to show you can provide this requirement".

But Mr McColl's Inverclyde-based shipyard firm was unable to give any firm commitment on the guarantee in the PQQ.

Yet Ferguson Marine remained one of six companies with the highest scores which were be taken forward to the tender stage before a preferred bidder was identified.

Another mandatory requirement that proved problematic involved the provision of a copy of audited accounts for the most recent two years and a statement of turnover, profit and cash flow for the most recent full year of trading.

In September last year, Ferguson Marine, less than a year into nationalisation, failed to get past the questionnaire stage in a similar procurement exercise carried out by CMAL for two new £105m lifeline ferry contracts which have now been awarded to Turkish shipyard Cemre Marin Endustri.

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Officially, the two vessels at the centre of Scotland's ferry-building scandal that remain at the Inverclyde yard will be delayed until at least next year – over five years later than planned while costs have risen by at least two-and-a-half times from £97m to £250m.

Mr Swinney said in a documentary due to air today: “These issues have got to be looked into further as a result of what you’ve put to me today.

“I listen to this material in good faith – it’s not been put to me in the past but I do assure you that it is material that I take seriously, about which I have concerns which raises fundamental issues for me about the fairness and the appropriateness of the tendering process and I have to be satisfied that those issues are properly looked at.”

Mr McColl – the former owner of the yard – said the document put Ferguson Marine in a “very strong position” to win the tender.

The procurement and building of the vessels has been an ongoing issue in recent years and the subject of two parliamentary inquiries, one of which is ongoing, and a report by the Auditor General.

The yard was pulled out of administration by the Scottish Government and nationalised in 2019, but a series of issues with the building of the vessels were soon identified that resulted in delays and overspends.

It was not until after the yard had been made the preferred bidder in the tendering process that its inability to offer the guarantee came to light.

Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: “This latest evidence adds to the growing stench around this whole scandal.

“We already know that the final decision to award the contract to Ferguson Marine was signed off against expert advice.

"Either the SNP’s record-keeping has been shockingly negligent, or there’s a cover-up going on.

“This contract should never have been awarded. Island communities have faced years of disruption, taxpayers have seen hundreds of millions of pounds of public money poured into the vessels – while the SNP get a couple of political photo-ops.

“It appears that the SNP have been up to some seriously dodgy dealings at the shipyard. The only way to get to the bottom of this scandal now, is for ministers to submit to a full public inquiry.”

CMAL said in a statement that new information contained in the programme would need to be "carefully investigated". It said that some staff employed at the time had now left.

It said its board had voiced concerns to Transport Scotland about the contract award to Fergusons, particularly in relation to the lack of refund guarantees, which were well-documented.

CMAL confirmed that an in-person meeting for the purposes of clarification did take place at the shipyard on 4 June, but said it believed this was normal and appropriate.

THE owners of Scotland's ageing lifeline ferry fleet have said they will no longer allow Scottish ministers to stop them from securing mandatory financial safeguards in procuring new vessels - after criticising the handling of the award of a ferry fiasco contract.

CMAL has previously said that it was "effectively instructed" by ministers to award the contract for the ferries.

They have stated that they will no longer allow Scottish ministers to stop them from securing mandatory financial safeguards in procuring new vessels.

It said the process that led to a Scottish Government intervention that forced them to award the contract despite its serious concerns about a lack of mandatory financial safeguards was "not normal".