SCOTTISH ministers are to pay more than £200,000 to a Dutch consultancy firm to tell them how they can finally make a success of their scandal-hit shipyard - three years after they nationalised it.

HaskoningDHV UK Limited has been hired to “identify potential ways to improve the competitiveness” of the Ferguson Marine yard on the Clyde “in support of its sustainable future”.

The cost of the “Shipyard Review of Productivity and Potential Improvements Study” is £212,544 before VAT.

The Ferguson Marine yard is at the heart of the CalMac Ferries scandal, where two boats intended for lifeline services are now five years late and £150m over budget.

Opposition parties questioned why the consultancy exercise was only being carried out now, when ministers took the yard into public ownership in August 2019.

The yard went broke after years of rows between then owner Jim McColl and the state ferry owner Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited about design changes and rising costs on the CalMac order.

A new official procurement notice said the Government hired HaskoningDHV under “an accelerated procedure” because there was only a small window in which to do the work.

It said the Scottish Government was working with Ferguson Marine Port Glasgow (FMPG), which is wholly owned by ministers, “to understand what improvements and investment could benefit the shipyard to increase its productivity and competitiveness to support it in securing a sustainable future”.

It said Ferguson Marine was “actively pursuing future contracts” as well as completing the two CalMac ferries.

It went on: “A window of opportunity has been identified in the yard’s current work programme when any improvements identified in this report could be undertaken at a time that minimises any impact on existing projects and is undertaken in advance of the next prospective vessels being built.

“In order to maximise the chances of alignment with this window of opportunity, and mitigate any negative impact on

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current or future projects, the Scottish Government is using the accelerated time limits permitted under... this procurement.”

HaskoningDHV UK Ltd, which is ultimately owned by international engineering consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV in the Netherlands, was the sole bidder for the job.

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie said: "No normal company would buy a business then wait three years before thinking about how to make it profitable.

"The Scottish Government is a serial failure when it comes to industrial interventions and it's the taxpayer who pays the price.

"If they had got started on this work three years ago, shipbuilding on the Clyde might be in a better place.

“It’s not so much that the penny has finally dropped.

"It’s taken hundreds of millions of pounds to drop before the Scottish Government have reached the conclusion that something needs done."

Labour MSP Neil Bibby added: "That the SNP government has only now thought to seek expert help at Fergusons is emblematic of their years of failure on this issue.

"For years now, the staff and the public have been failed. Despite the vast amount of public money spent, we are still a long way away from getting the ships that Scotland's fleet badly needs."

Tory MSP Graham Simpson said: “The SNP’s ferry fiasco continues to mean that more taxpayers money is being spent on addressing issues Ministers should have been on top of from the very start.

“Eyebrows will be raised among the public at this six-figure sum being awarded during a cost-of-living crisis which sums up the SNP’s complete lack of forward planning on Ferguson Marine.

“Islanders are beyond breaking point and just want a reliable ferry service that is fit for purpose.

“Yet we still have contracts being awarded to understand the basics of being responsible for the yard.

“That simply isn’t good enough when the SNP have already blown hundreds of millions on ferries that don’t float and covered-up their failures at every turn.”

The Scottish Government said: “Significant progress has been made at Ferguson Marine and the yard is back to being a serious contender for future vessel contracts.

“As part of ongoing work to support the yard to secure these future opportunities, and in line with recommendations in the [March 2022] Audit Scotland report, we have commissioned this piece of work from global shipbuilding experts to evaluate what possible improvements can be made for the yard to be more efficient, competitive and to win contracts on merit. Ultimately, decisions on what sort of vessel opportunities to pursue are for the Ferguson Marine management and board of directors to determine.”