FINANCE Secretary Kate Forbes has said delays to two CalMac ferries were caused by issues with construction at Ferguson Marine as she slammed the latest remarks by former shipyard owner Jim McColl.

Forbes faced questions over the saga again in Parliament after McColl repeated his accusation on BBC Radio Scotland that the contract was rushed through for political purposes.

But she once again denied this claim and said McColl had a "clear interest in shifting blame onto others" when the "root cause of these delays was the construction under FMEL [Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd]".

McColl said the shipyard in Port Glasgow would not have taken on the work if it knew of the objections from Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), the Government-owned company which owns ferries and ports.

He also accused the Scottish Government of conducting a “fabulous propaganda exercise”.

Forbes said: "It is entirely wrong to suggest the contract was rushed for political purposes.

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"Firstly, the timetable does not support that notion, given Ferguson was announced as the preferred bidder in August 2015.

"Secondly, the contract was awarded in line with all the procurement rules and practices in the normal way and contrary to what Jim McColl said his morning it was the chief executive of CMAL and Jim McColl himself who signed the contract.

"This is a man with a clear interest in shifting the blame on others when the root cause of these delays was the construction under FMEL.

"The procurement process was undertaken in good faith, there were no concerns raised at the point of announcing the preferred bidder in August 2015 and that is why the preferred bidder was announced based on the advice of CMAL. When concerns were raised mitigations were put in place, and that is all very well documented."

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to appear before the Parliament this week and answer questions on McColl's remarks and said he didn't think Forbes's explanation was credible.

"We need honesty and openness about this because taxpayers in the midst of a cost of living crisis are paying for this government’s failure," said Bibby.

"Audit Scotland pointed to a lack of information about the decision-making process. This is very serious.

"Every piece of relevant information now needs to be published including communications between ministers regarding the award of this contract."

"Kate Forbes has said there was no rush and no politics. I don’t think anyone believes that’s credible."

Last week, an Audit Scotland report said the contracts for the two unfinished ferries, known as Glen Sannox and Hull 802, were awarded to Ferguson Marine in 2015 despite CMAL’s reservations.

At the weekend, McColl said the contracts were awarded quickly for “political purposes” due to the SNP conference, though Sturgeon has since said this is “flatly wrong”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Tuesday, McColl said: “Had I known at the time that CMAL were strongly opposed to it, I wouldn’t have taken this contract.

“How can you work with a buyer who doesn’t want you to be there?

“There’s been a fabulous propaganda exercise carried out by the Government to try and put the blame of this on to the previous management at Ferguson’s.

“Ferguson’s had absolutely top-class management that did a great job, and that’s why I’m speaking out to support them, because they are being, I think, unfairly criticised."