MINISTERS have been urged to intervene after nationalised Ferguson Marine failed at the first hurdle to win a £100m contract to create two new lifeline vessels to serve Islay.

Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet, invited four overseas companies to bid for the contract to build the two vessels.

The Inverclyde group within Alex Salmond's Alba Party have now written to the finance secretary Kate Forbes asking for the Scottish Government to overturn the decision to "snub" Ferguson Marine, as well as committing to directly award all future ferry orders to the yard.

As the fallout over the decision continued, the shadow finance secretary Jamie Greene tweeted a picture of Nicola Sturgeon and wrote: " 'Standing up for Scotland', my a***

The West Scotland MSP, who took a grab of a 2016 SNP campaign video in which Nicola Sturgeon celebrated public interventions including with Ferguson Marine added: "Inverclyde remembers when Derek Mackay swanned into town with a fat cheque and promises of dozens of new ferries to be built on the Clyde. No amount of SNP spin will truthfully answer why these new ferries can’t be made locally, instead of overseas. What a kick in the teeth. "


A key signator to the letter is Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, who is also the interim general secretary of the party, sat on the task force that saved the yard in 2014 and he again led talks between the local authority and the Scottish Government in 2019 to prevent a further threat of administration.

He has been campaigning for the Scottish Government to adopt a policy position of direct award to state-owned Ferguson Marine to bypass EU procurement rules as Scotland is no longer party of the EU.

The successful bids were from Damen Shipyard in Romania, Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland, and Turkish shipyards Sefine Denizcilik Tersanecilik Turizm, and Cemre Marin Endustri.

READ MORE: Scots ministers' ferry fiasco fixer says Ferguson Marine shipyard is on the road to recovery

It has been confirmed Ferguson Marine embarked in a bid for the contract through the initial Pre-Qualification Questionnaire process but failed to make the shortlist.

CMAL said it had adhered to the Scottish Government’s procurement process, and that after the Scottish Parliamentary inquiry its assessments process is "stronger than ever" and includes third party reviews.


Ferguson Marine which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde was nationalised after it financially collapsed in August 2019, amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries.

It came five years after tycoon Jim McColl first rescued the yard when it went bust.

The delivery of new island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, was found to be between four and five years late, with costs doubling to over £200m.

Ministers said they believe they were acting in the public interest in taking control of Ferguson Marine, saving it from closure, rescuing more than 300 jobs, and ensuring that the two vessels under construction will be completed.

The Islay route is already one of the busiest services for freight on the Clyde and Hebrides network, and CMAL says that the incoming ferries will support the island’s vital economic activity.

The four shortlisted shipyards will now submit their technical and commercial proposals for the design and construction of the two vessels.

Alba want the Scottish Government to scrap the management and ownership structure of Scotland's beleaguered ferries, including the scrapping of CMAL to create a new integrated Ferries Scotland body.

READ MORE: Ministers under fire as fears grow over collapse of Scots ferry fiasco firm

They say this will guarantee twenty years of work and create one thousand jobs on the lower Clyde.

In a letter to Kate Forbes MSP, Inverclyde councillors Jim and Chris McEleny say: "The ongoing failure of leadership at Ferguson’s risks the very future of the yard and fails its workforce.


"Further, it is clear that CMAL is not fit for purpose and it is long past the time that the Scottish Government should show political leadership on the industrial strategy required to link procurement to sustaining the long term future of shipbuilding on the Lower Clyde.

“It is a slap on the face to the workforce of Ferguson’s and the people of Inverclyde to send Scottish ferry orders to Turkey, Poland, or Romania over our own nationally owned shipyard in Inverclyde."

They questioned how the Ferguson Marine turnaround director could be doing his job well, as stated by Ms Forbes during a recent visit to the yard, before it emerged the lucrative contract was lost.

In 2016 Nicola Sturgeon featured in a 'Standing up for Scotland' video at Ferguson Marine. Source: SNP

She said that Mr Hair, who it emerged has been paid over £1.5m for 454 days work was the "right man" to steer the yard towards a long term future.

Official Scottish Government figures have revealed that Tim Hair's invoiced fees at the taxpayer's expense as head of nationalised Ferguson Marine works out at nearly £3,000 a day - making him one of the UK's highest-earning public servants.

Ms Forbes said:"We need the right people and we need to be willing to pay for the right people.

"Obviously with any of these salaries, we've got to look at benchmarking across the market — what does it cost to get a good turnaround director in.

"So, you could say that it demonstrates our commitment to trying to get the best of the best to turnaround the yard."

At the end of last month, before it emerged Ferguson Marine had failed to win the Islay ferries contract, Ms Forbes had indicated that the Scottish Government could reward staff with further work in replenishing the country's ferry fleet.

She recognised the argument for all future CalMac work to be awarded to Ferguson, but added: "It isn't sufficient to secure the long term objectives for the yard."

She also said that while there are no EU procurement barriers, there were was still a responsibility on the government to ensure "value for money" and there is "a process to go through".

And she said that the pipeline of work "can't just rely on Scottish Government procurement" saying the yard to be "nationally and internationally competitive".

She said: "Even if we end up in a position where CalMac is procuring vessels via Ferguson, we still need to ensure that there's a long term pipeline [of work] and that has to come from being internationally competitive.

"However, when it comes to procurement, and obviously we've set out our infrastructure investment of £580m for replacing vessels and also investing in harbours, I think there's a role there [for Ferguson]."