THE Scottish Government would not repeat mistakes made in the procurement of two delayed ferries, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has said.

Ferguson Marine was awarded the contract for two vessels in 2015, but recent cost estimates by Audit Scotland have put the price of the ferries at more than £240 million – two-and-a-half times the original £97.5m quote.

But the original agreement was made without a refund guarantee that would protect public money – and an Audit Scotland report said there was no paper trail explaining why the contract was signed off without the clause in place.

The Scottish Government-owned ferry procurer, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (Cmal), also raised concerns over the lack of guarantee.

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Under questioning from Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, Sturgeon would not say if she considered the contract to be a “bad deal”, but she did say that such agreements would not be repeated.

“Obviously, we would not repeat what has happened – I think that is self-evident,” she said.

Last week, a former shipbuilding adviser to the Scottish Government suggested that the final cost of hulls 801, now known as Glen Sannox, and 802 could rise much further.

Luke van Beek told The Times newspaper that the eventual cost could be as much as £400m.

Ross urged Sturgeon to guarantee the Scottish public the price would not rise that far.

But the First Minister rejected the estimates, saying: “I simply don’t recognise those numbers.

“The cost estimates are set out by the Finance Secretary and those are the cost estimates that we stand behind and I’ve been very clear about that.”

The First Minister added: “Our focus now is on ensuring these ferries are completed in the interest of our island communities and also on ensuring that Ferguson shipyard, and all those who work in it, have a bright future.

“We will learn lessons from this – I’ve said several times today I deeply regret the experience of this.”

The Scottish Tory leader said the yard has become “iconic, but for all the wrong reasons”.

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Sturgeon reiterated her “deep regret” for the delays and cost overruns, but insisted that, had the contract not been signed, jobs at the Government-backed yard would be at risk.

“I still believe the Scottish Government was right to do everything to save Ferguson’s shipyard,” she said.

“But for those decisions, Ferguson’s shipyard would not still be employing significant numbers of people as it is today.

“Douglas Ross may well take different views on this, but I do think it was right for the Scottish Government to protect and save jobs and protect that shipyard.”

Ross replied: “The deal that (the First Minister) is so proud of has become a disaster.”