NEARLY £160m of public money bailouts has been set aside in budgets for the nationalised Ferguson Marine over three years to try to finally deliver Scotland's ferry fiasco ferries - but it might not be the end of it.

The £60.9m that the Scottish Government has said would be allocated in 2023/24 is £25m more than was budgeted for in this financial year as Ferguson Marine fights to deliver two lifeline ferries that are at least five years late.

The spending for the next financial year was preceded with budgeted tranches of £35.9m and £47m.

It has been confirmed that a further £15m had been injected into this the 2022/23 Ferguson Marine budget.

The shadow transport minister Graham Simpson has compared the amounts being ploughed into the Inverclyde yard to "watching an edition of Ant and Dec's Limitless Win as there doesn't seem to be any cap on it".

And the Deputy First Minister John Swinney was unable to provide any assurances that that could be the end of the taxpayer handouts.

Mr Swinney was asked if he could guarantee that the £60.9m being allocated for the next financial year is going to be the end of the spend.

He said: "I certainly hope that that is it, yes."

After being told that was not a commitment, he added: "I am required to give the committee honest answers and I hope that that is the last that we have to contribute for the construction of [the ferries].

He said the £60.9m was based on an assessment from the Ferguson Marine over what was required in the next financial year.

"I'm responding to the plans put to me by the yard and obviously the government looks very carefully and scrutinises those propositions put to us, so I hope that is the last of the contributions we have to make."

Mr Simpson said the response "deeply alarming".

HeraldScotland: File photo dated 10/05/22 of the unfinished Glen Sannox Caledonian Macbrayne ferry in the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde. Scottish Conservatives have repeated calls for a public inquiry to be held into the CalMac ferries

“Given the huge sums of public money already shelled out on these lifeline vessels, which are more than five years late, taxpayers will be appalled that the best the Deputy First Minister can do is say he ‘hopes it will be the last’," he said.

“The SNP’s breathtaking incompetence throughout the ferries scandal means few people will be prepared to take these assurances on trust.”

Glen Sannox and Hull 802 were due online in the first half of 2018 when Ferguson Marine was under the control of tycoon Jim McColl, with one intitially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris, but they are at least five years late. The last estimates suggested the costs of delivery are due to soar from £97m to at least £350m.

The Scottish Government-controlled owner of the nation's ferries has indicated that continuing gaps in the design of the stricken vessels is providing a "significant risk" to their delivery.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the taxpayer-funded company which owns and procures ferries, raised concerns in its latest analysis of progress of the construction of the lifeline ferries.

Both the shipyard and CMAL are still looking for delivery of Glen Sannox between March and May this year.

Ferguson Marine has advised CMAL that there will be further delay to the completion of Hull 802 which was scheduled to be set sail some time between October and December 2023 and be operationally ready at the start of next year. It said the overall programme for Hull 802 is now under review with installation of pipework behind schedule.

But in a delayed update on progress CMAL has warned: "Ongoing design changes affecting the constructability of the vessels design are driven exclusively within the shipyard process to meet regulatory and contracted specification requirements and are not driven by CMAL request for change. All are related to outstanding technical queries and previously unidentified works. Closure of final design gaps is needed, which at this late stage of the project remains a significant risk to the project."

HeraldScotland:

It comes as a shipbuilding specialist who started life as an electrical apprentice with BAE Systems 38 years ago has been recruited to have a key role in finally delivering the ferries.

Eddie Purves has joined nationalised Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) as technical director having spent just over a year as group managing director of A&P Group, the largest ship repair company in the UK, with three yards in Middlesbrough, Falmouth in Cornwall and Hebbern in Tyne and Wear.

A&P Group had just announced operating profit for the year to March 31, 2022 had increased marginally from £4.8m to £4.9m while profits had risen from £3.7m to £4.4m In November it missed out on a lucrative £1.6bn contract to build support vessels for the Royal Navy. The the beneficiaries were a Spanish-led consortium with much of the work going to a rival Belfast yard.

Ferguson Marine said Mr Purves was bringing with him 30 years of experience in commercial & naval shipbuilding in Scotland, initially with Kvaerner Govan before the yard was taken over by BAE.

Ferguson Marine said Mr Purves will have a "key role" with within its senior leadership team as it works to complete the two vessels.

David Tydeman, chief executive of Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow), said: “We have a busy year ahead, with the planned handover of Glen Sannox in late spring, and working to complete hull 802.

“These senior appointments bring new talent and a wealth of experience to FMPG and will enable us to expand on strategic planning to build a sustainable future for the shipyard.”