MEMBERS of Alex Salmond’s Alba party have posed with models to highlight the precarious state of Scotland’s ship-building industry.
MP Kenny MacAskill and father-and-son Inverclyde councillors Chris and Jim McEleny took three toy CalMac ferries to the First Minister’s official residence, Bute House.
The stunt was intended to shame Nicola Sturgeon into securing more work to the last ferry-builder in Scotland, the nationalised Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow.
It is currently building two CalMac ferries for the state-owned quango Caledonian Maritime Asset Management (CMAL) which are five years late and £100m over budget.
Ms Sturgeon has said the yard, which was saved by taxpayers after going bust in 2019, must focus on the work before turning to other orders.
However there was concern about its future last week when it emerged it tried to land a £100million CMAL order for two more CalMac ferries and hadn’t even been shortlisted.
That work will now go to yards in Poland, Romania or Turkey instead.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar raised the issue at FMQs on Thursday, calling the situation an “international humiliation” and urging Ms Sturgeon to keep the work in Scotland.
Alba also demanded action to help Ferguson’s at its recent conference, arguing all boats for state-owned ferry operator CalMac should be awarded directly to the yard.
Paid a visit to Bute House with @ChrisMcEleny and @JimMceleny to deliver models of a Cal Mac ferry to the First Minister as a stark reminder of exactly what is at stake – Ferguson Marine at Port Glasgow and the future of shipbuilding on the lower Clyde. https://t.co/NsxfNXkAqZ pic.twitter.com/UssAiSyQIz
— Kenny MacAskill MP (@eastlothianmp) September 24, 2021
Taking the models of the MV Isle of Mull, MS Isle of Lewis, and MV Hebrides to Bute House, Mr MacAskill said: “Recent events have shown just how precarious the future of Ferguson has become with CMAL failing to allow the yard to even bid for the Islay ferries.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way. The yard has a skilled and committed workforce but it is now time for government to show the same commitment as the workers at the yard.
“I am handing in a model of a CalMac ferry to the First Minister as a stark reminder of exactly what is at stake – Ferguson Marine at Port Glasgow and the future of shipbuilding on the lower Clyde.
“Unless the Scottish Government and the First Minister face up to their responsibilities and start directing CMAL to place orders with Ferguson, including the Gourock-Dunoon replacements and small isle ferries, then all that will be left of our proud shipbuilding tradition will be plastic models. That must not be allowed to happen.
“Sturgeon must not be allowed to achieve through incompetence and neglect what Ted Heath failed to achieve through deliberate intent – namely the end of shipbuilding on the lower clyde. Sturgeon must not scuttle the Scottish fleet.
“The power of government and state intervention must be mobilised to secure the future of the yard well into the future. Anything less would be a betrayal.”
Cllr McEleny senior added: “Inverclyde badly needs investment. There are many interconnected factors that result in the levels of deprivation we suffer from.
“The Scottish Government have the power to directly award contracts to our area.
“Not only would this support jobs at the yard, it would be the foundation to attract more investment to the area and create even more jobs.
“The Scottish Government have a simple choice – invest in the people of Inverclyde or choose to allow Inverclyde to keep being top of all the wrong league tables year after year.”