NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of presiding over an “international humiliation”, after Scotland’s state-owned shipyard wasn’t deemed good enough to build state-owned ferries.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar laid the charge against the First Minister after Ferguson Marine’s bid didn’t even make the shortlist to build two new CalMac ferries last week.
Instead, yards in Poland, Romania or Turkey will get the work.
Mr Sarwar said it showed all the SNP was good at manufacturing was “grievance”.
The Government-owned quango which ordered the boats for CalMac’s Islay and Jura routes, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), has a fraught relationship with Ferguson’s.
The Port Glasgow yard was saved from receivership in 2014 by engineering tycoon Jim McColl, and quickly won a £97m order to build two dual-fuel CalMac ferries for CMAL.
However the order was plagued by delays and rows over designs and money, and Fergsuon’s went broke and was nationalised by the Scottish Government in August 2019.
The two boats ordered in 2015 by CMAL are still under construction, and are now expected to be delivered four to five years late and more than £100m over budget.
At FMQs, Mr Sarwar asked Ms Sturgeon why Ferguson’s didn’t even make the shortlist for the latest CMAL order.
The First Minister said that if the Scottish Government hadn’t intervened to nationalise the yard, hundreds of people would have lost their jobs.
She made it clear that the yard’s priority had to be on finishing the 2015 ferry order before it could secure new orders in future.
She said: “Ferguson’s is on a journey back to recovery. The focus of Ferguson’s is on completing the two ferries that are currently delayed.
“I hope that the work that is under way at Ferguson’s will equip the yard to compete for new orders and new contracts in the future, but let us not lose sight of the fact that, without the Government’s intervention, there would be no Ferguson’s shipyard and the hundreds of jobs that are currently dependent on it would not even exist.”
Mr Sarwar replied: “The First Minister says that the company that she owns is ‘on a journey’, but people want ferry journeys – that is what the Government needs to address.”
He accused the SNP government of “complacency and ineptitude” on the ferry issue.
He said: “That a Scottish Governmentowned company cannot win a Scottish Government contract to build ships is a national scandal that is now an international humiliation.
“The Government has no strategy to expand services, no fleet to meet Scotland’s needs and no plan to fix the problem.
“The model is not working, it is not fit for purpose and it must be replaced.
“There are 15 ferries in the [CalMac] fleet that are over their original 25-year life cycle, which means that there are more than enough projects to keep Ferguson’s in work and even to expand our industry here in Scotland, if only it was run properly.
“I ask the First Minister to raise her game, to stop wasting taxpayers’ money, to halt the tender process, to scrap CMAL and to stand up for Scottish jobs.”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “I say to Anas Sarwar that a closed Ferguson’s – which is what would have happened if he and his party had been in charge – would not have been able to compete for or win contracts.
“We have kept Ferguson’s open and we will do the work to ensure that it is a success.”
Speaking after FMQs, Mr Sarwar added: “This government has no strategy to expand services, no fleet to meet Scotland’s needs and no plan to fix the problem.
“The CalMac-CMAL [operator-owner] model isn’t working, it isn’t fit for purpose and must be replaced.
“It is time for the First Minister to – in her own words – ‘come down on the side of a Scottish industry, a Scottish shipyard and Scottish jobs’. Because the harsh reality is the only thing being manufactured in SNP Scotland is grievance.”