One good thing about the removal of David Tydeman as chief executive of the Ferguson shipyard at Port Glasgow is that it sets a precedent. Finally, it is possible for someone to carry the can.

That novelty must surely be built on. Over a decade, this saga has assembled a cast of villains, none of whom has paid any penalty. Mutual interest has underpinned the invulnerability of politicians, civil servants and sundry associates.

There is general surprise that Mr Tydeman is the precedent-setter. Since he accepted the poisoned chalice in December 2021, he came across as an adult in the room who identified the scale of problems and got on with addressing them.

Whoever’s fault it is that the order for two modest CalMac ferries is running seven years late and costing at least quadruple the original fixed price, it is not David Tydeman’s, whose main offence, it seems, has been an excess of frankness.

He kept coming back to ministers and Holyrood committees to tell them the ferries would be delayed even longer and cost even more. Recipients of these messages did not react well. Neither did the random bunch scraped together as the board of Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd: not the most attractive gig for itinerant non-execs.

Mr Tydeman’s fate appears like a classic case of shooting the messenger. It wasn’t his fault more time and money were required to finish the ferries. These inevitabilities were baked into past failures under his predecessors, both private and public.

I visited the Ferguson yard a couple of months ago and Mr Tydeman gave a tour of the Glen Sannox. I am relatively well versed in this whole affair but still found what I witnessed astonishing. Round every corner was a story of almost unbelievable incompetence which had to be fixed.

For example, it had become apparent that when the bow of the vessel was lowered, it did not fit securely. A specialist team was required to correct this rather basic flaw. I don’t know whether it derived from design specifications, errors in construction or deterioration over the years of waiting. But it was an inescapable fact that the work had to be done.

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Repeat that by hundreds, including the nonsensical “environmental” wheeze of dual-fuelling the vessels with diesel and gas imported from Qatar to be trucked from Kent to Ardrossan and Skye. So long passed that spares required to fix the original installations were unobtainable. Mr Tydeman’s fault?

None of this came cheap and cumulatively, kept ratcheting up the millions. Mr Tydeman became the bearer of bad news because there was so much bad news to report. But it was also clear that he had respect from the workforce who recognised a shipbuilding man when they saw one. This is borne out by his standing in the industry.

I doubt if he intended to be at Ferguson’s very long once the ferries were in the water. Meantime, he worked hard to rebuild the yard’s credibility within the industry. This involved telling the Scottish Government how much they would have to invest in order to secure future orders. Again, they did not like what they heard.

What happened at Holyrood on Tuesday was extraordinary. The SNP MSP for Inverclyde, Stuart McMillan, sought to raise an urgent question about Mr Tydeman’s dismissal. This required a vote in which four of Mr McMillan’s colleagues sided with the opposition. It needed the SNP’s Green confrères to deny his request.

At this point, the Cabinet Secretary, Mairi McAllan, intervened to say that “the decision to terminate the contract .. was entirely for the company’s board”. It is difficult to know which would be worse: that this was true, which I do not believe, or that it is untrue.

There was no such shyness about Ministerial involvement when Mr Tydeman was appointed. The then Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, hailed it as “an important milestone for Ferguson Marine which reflects the progress made … David Tydeman brings four decades of industry experience and senior leadership and will be key to securing our long term ambitions for the yard”. Note the word “our”.

This is a publicly-owned asset and vast sums of public money have been sunk into it directly and indirectly by the Scottish Government, which also appointed the chairman, a court favourite named Andrew Miller who previously chaired Prestwick Airport and has no shipbuilding pedigree. Ms McAllan cannot divorce herself from responsibility by that one degree of separation.

The Herald: Economy Secretary Màiri McAllan Economy Secretary Màiri McAllan (Image: PA)

The interim replacement of Mr Tydeman by a non-executive board member begs plenty of its own questions. How, and over what period, was this week’s coup hatched? What process did Mr John Petticrew go through before being parachuted into the role?

He lives in Canada and his shipbuilding experience was in the Middle East. It is by no means apparent why he is better placed than Mr Tydeman to chart a course for the future of a small shipyard on the Clyde. Perhaps Ms McAllan will in due course explain.

The reality is that this decision could not have been taken without ministerial approval and equally that the minister takes her advice from Transport Scotland, where so many of the Ferguson bodies are buried.

The starting point is that the order should never have been gifted to the yard in the first place, in the absence of a Builder’s Refund Guarantee. It was political opportunism at its worse in the name of “saving” the yard but has actually done it reputational damage that may be beyond repair.

Not that anyone in Edinburgh cares, but the islands also continue to pay a huge price for this folly. Other than Mr Tydeman, nobody has resigned or been sacked. The treatment of him is an additional reason why a public inquiry, conducted under oath, is required to get at the truth. Otherwise, they all walk away scot-free.

Meanwhile, there is a vital question to resolve. Who will launch the second ferry? Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon can be pressed into service, one last time.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.