Shipbuilding is an industry for which we as a nation are synonymous and have been for many decades.

It’s an industry that has provided generations of families with work, pride and purpose. For decades, the yards on the banks of the Clyde were world-leading, attracting the attention of international shipping lines and acting as the benchmark of excellence for yards across the world.

Sadly, those days are long gone. Whether deliberately run down for ideological purposes, or inadvertently prevented from fulfilling their potential due to managerial and state incompetence, Scottish shipbuilding is no longer the envy of the world.

The latest in a long line of examples of failed government interventions, Ferguson Marine has become symbolic of the situation faced by the shipbuilding industry in Scotland. ‘Saved’ from collapse by the Scottish Government in 2019, the company has lurched from one disaster to the next ever since.

READ MORE: Anger as state-owned Ferguson Marine loses £100m CalMac ferries contract to overseas firms

Many will know Ferguson Marine as the yard where Calmac’s long overdue and drastically delayed ferries are due to be built. As of September 14, 2021, that is no longer the case. Despite repeated assurances, Ferguson’s, a Scottish Government owned shipyard, have now announced that the contracts for the latest Calmac fleet have been put to tender and the shortlist contains no Scottish shipyards. Worth over £100 million, it now looks increasingly likely that the work will be awarded to a shipyard in Poland, Romania or Turkey.

It is a process that should be halted immediately and should never have been allowed in the first place. Simply put, these ferries are being ordered by Caledonian Maritime Assets, a government-owned entity, and Ferguson Marine, a government-owned shipyard has both the capacity and capability to complete the work as a unified team. So why on earth are the government even contemplating awarding them to any yard other than Fergusons? Surely the simplest and most economically viable solution would be for the government-owned shipyard in Scotland to build the government-owned ferries that are to be used by the Scottish public?

This perverse spectacle begs the question of whether the government really know what they are doing. Tim Hair has been appointed to the position of ‘Turnaround Director’ earning an eyewatering salary of around £800,000. Far from turning around the yard’s fortunes, he appears to be compounding them, having failed to ensure that the latest CalMac order was placed with the yard for which he is ultimately responsible.

The most basic scrutiny shows that this yard is in disarray, but it doesn’t need to be this way. There are solutions and I would strongly encourage the Scottish Government to give them serious consideration. For example, the Calmac fleet comprises of 34 ferries, each with a 25 year life span. Simple maths tells us that this means they require one new vessel every nine months, and if we had a coherent industrial strategy for commercial shipbuilding in Scotland then the shipyard would have a continuous rolling order book indefinitely.

That rolling order book would mean certainty for the workers, for the local community and for the local economy. Yes, it is not the ultimate solution, but it would ensure that the yard is able to get back on its feet and that commercial shipbuilding in Scotland has a sound foundation upon which to build an internationally competitive position. In the long term, the design and production learning curves from this consistent work could and should allow the yard to compete for international tenders, in time allowing Scotland to return to its rightful place as a world leader in shipbuilding.

One thing is certain – the current problems require immediate Ministerial intervention at CMAL. Putting the orders for Scottish vessels to international tender when we have a state-owned yard capable of completing the work amounts to industrial vandalism and must be halted immediately with a new basis for awarding all public sector shipbuilding contracts rooted in long-term industrial development in Scotland.