MISSING documents, secret conversations and deals announced before they were done – MSPs heard the explosive claims from industrialist Jim McColl as they probed the Fergusons ferry row.

Port Glasgow shipbuilder Ferguson Marine fell into administration in August before a rescue deal from the Scottish Government saved it from closure.

The Inverclyde yard was contracted to build new ferries for CalMac in a £97 million deal which descended into overruns, budget increases and a major row with CalMac owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMal) and the Scottish Government.

Now expected to cost £230m, the Glen Sannox and another unnamed vessel are expected to come in three years late and a Holyrood committee is trying to learn what went wrong.

READ MORE: MSPs are warned that CalMac ferries are 'less than half-built'

Yesterday former Ferguson director Jim McColl told the cross-party Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee his team was not to blame.

During the session, McColl said suggestions from Finance Secretary Derek Mackay that the yard was at fault were “absolutely scandalous”, telling MSPs: “It’s outrageous what’s been said.”

He claimed Ferguson Marine was bounced into cutting the £105m it wanted for the build because First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the deal before it had been concluded, stating: “Before we agreed the negotiation the First Minister had announced that we had been selected as preferred bidders and the price was £97 million.

“CMal then came back to us and said ‘it’s been announced by the First Minister, you’ll just have to accept it’.”

McColl said the task was not achievable for £100m and that a series of design changes had pushed costs up.

He further claimed key documents relating to the agreement had not been released and that Finance Secretary Derek Mackay had ordered civil servants out of a meeting before saying the CMal board had threatened to quit over the row.

McColl said he had appealed to Mackay to insist upon an independent expert witness process as the relationship between Ferguson Marine and CMal broke down.

However, the businessman said that was denied due to the quit threat.

READ MORE: Ferguson Marine: Ex-director Jim McColl calls for public inquiry

He said he’d made a “personal appeal” to Sturgeon to convince CMal to agree to talks and that Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of the Scottish Government-owned body, had wanted him to retract a near-£15m estimate on extra costs caused by design changes.

McColl accused CMal of dodging “accountability” and said the organisation was “surplus to requirements”. He said: “We don’t need CMal to be there. Before, it worked perfectly well with CalMac.”

He further claimed the liquefied natural gas vessels were the wrong choice and the Glen Sannox should be sold on completion, with smaller ferries built to serve island routes.

Local MSP Stuart McMillan said losing the yard would be “devastating” for the local economy.

McColl said it had been “forced into administration by this Government’s actions”, stating: “We were not going to subsidise the Government.”