LIFELINE ferry owners failed to ensure that Scots suppliers were prioritised when a contract was agreed that vessels should be built in Turkey.

The revelation came in the wake of a row over new ferries being built at the Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard were using steel sourced in China.

The ferry owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) have admitted there were no clauses in the contracts for the building of four ferries in Turkey to ensure that where possible supply contracts would go to Scotland, UK or EU businesses.

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine did not bid for new ferries contract given to Turkey

And transport minister Jenny Gilruth has said she was not clear whether that could be stipulated.

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of CMAL has been quizzed by MSPs about the contract and whether the supply chain clause was something that the state-owned ferry company could have included, or whether they would have waited for an instructions from the Scottish Government.

He said: "It would have been in CMAL's gift to do so."

And he added: "That doesn't mean that an awful lot of European suppliers are not supplying to the Turkish shipyard because they are including Scottish suppliers. So the way the contract runs is we have a very close working relationship with the shipyard.

"The shipyard proposes what equipment they're going to put on the ship. And obviously one of the key criteria is is it supportable. And obviously that then lends itself to quite a lot of input from European yards."

James Anderson, CMAL director of vessels added: " I suppose it's quite sad, now. You know, I've been involved in shipbuilding in the Clyde all my working life and the number of suppliers is reducing and reducing and there's very, very few actually.

"One of the ones mentioned for the stabilisers is Scottish-based. But there's very, very, very few suppliers that can actually provide the shipyard that we deal with in Turkey. "We have such an open relationship with them. If the suppliers are there in Scotland, they'll contact them and ask them if they're there. But they are few and far between now and when we're looking at major suppliers of equipment."

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine: Ferry firm sanctioned twice over financial fails

Cemre Marin Endustri shipyard is six months into the construction of two new lifeline ferries for Islay as part or a £105m contract controversially given to the Turkish shipyard nearly a year ago.

They have also been given the £115m contract to build two more ferries for longsuffering islanders as attempts are made to shore up the nation’s ageing ferry fleet.

In January, CMAL confirmed that steel from China is being used because sourcing materials from war-torn Ukraine has been ruled out.

Jim McColl, owner of state-owned shipyard firm Ferguson Marine before it fell into administration in August, 2019 and then nationalised said he was surprised that the steel was being sourced in China.

The shipbuilder which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde was nationalised after amid a row over soaring costs and delays to the construction of lifeline island ferries Glen Sannox and Hull 802.

The Herald:

The United Nations has accused Communist China of "serious human rights violations" in a long-awaited report into allegations of abuse in Xinjiang province.

China was also the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions in 2021, accounting for nearly 31 percent of the global emissions.

It has also been accused of having one of the world’s most restrictive media environments, relying on censorship to control information in the news, online, and on social media.

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservatives' shadow cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport has asked Ms Gilruth whether she would have preferred to see a Scottish suppliers clause in the contract.

She told MSPs at the Scottish Parliament's net zero, energy and transport committee: "I think the member asked a fair question there in relation to the vessels that have been procured and are being built in Turkey that was a free open competition.

"We couldn't dictate in that competition, where the award was made because it was an open competition. I think the issue around about supply chain is well made. As far as I understand that there will be benefits to the UK supply chain in relation to the vessels that are being built in Turkey."

Mr Kerr then asked that if further procurement exercises take place, whether she would prefer to see as part of those contract negotiations CMAL stipulate that the UK and/or Scottish supply chain needs to be used.

Ms Gilruth responded: "We're not quite clear if we could stipulate that within the scope and I would want to clarify that with CMAL in the first instance. I think the overall point in relation to providing Scottish jobs obviously from government investment I would support. But I'm not actually clear from this contractual agreement, if that was a possibility within the contract."

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine: Ferry firm faces being dissolved over finance fails

The Scottish government set up a steel task force after Tata announced it was mothballing its plants in Motherwell and Cambuslang, with a total loss of 270 posts.

The government later bought the mills for £1 and immediately sold them to Liberty, part of the GFG group.

The Scottish government provided Mr Gupta with a £7 million loan, which remains unpaid, to facilitate the purchase.

As part of the deal, ministers agreed to protect Tata Steel from potential future costs for the Dalzell site, while Liberty House - and its parent company, GFG Alliance - made a similar commitment to the government.

In the Islay ferries contract award, CMAL, which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet, had invited four overseas companies to bid to build the two vessels bound for Islay - and excluded Ferguson Marine.

Now state-controlled Ferguson Marine, failed to get past the first Pre Qualification Questionnaire hurdle in the Islay ferries contract and is still struggling to produce two delayed vessels.

The award to Turkey was described by Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson as "an embarrassment for the SNP".

Transport Scotland has said it is hoped that the latest ferries to go be built in Turkey will be in place by 2026 and that they will serve the communities of Harris and North Uist, which have suffered severe disruption since the beginning of this year.

The Scottish Government agency had previously confirmed that the new ferries will be built to the same specification as those which are being designed and built in Turkey for Islay.

They say it will “speed up” the replacement of the major vessel fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes, “providing potential economies of scale and enhanced public value”.

The two new vessels are expected to be like the Islay ferries, 310 foot long with the capacity to take up to 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles.

There are are currently six ferries of a similar size that are currently 27 years or older. Thy will be over 30 years old in 2026.