THE nationalised shipyard at the centre of an ongoing fiasco around the late and overbudget delivery of two new ferries is to be returned to the private sector “as quickly as possible”, a Scottish Cabinet Secretary has said.

Speaking to MSPs on Holyrood’s Economy and Fair Work Committee, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said that any private interest in buying Ferguson Marine, in Port Glasgow, would be taken “seriously”.

The two ferries being constructed by the firm for CalMac – the MV Glen Sannox and unnamed Hull 802 – were originally projected to cost £97 million.

However, prices have ballooned and the shipyard had to be nationalised in 2019 to prevent it folding completely.

READ MORE: 'Concerns' Ferguson Marine got preferential treatment in ferry contracting, John Swinney says

In September 2022, Ferguson Marine CEO David Tydeman said the total costs for the Glen Sannox were not expected to exceed £101 million, while the 802 should not cost more than £108.6m – for a total of £209.6m.

But Audit Scotland put the current estimate for the two ships at £293m. And the Glen Sannox, previously projected to be delivered this month, has faced yet more delays as the fiasco rolls on.

Gray (below) was quizzed by Tory transport spokesperson Graham Simpson about what the “future holds for Ferguson Marine”.

“What are the prospects for this yard in your view?” Simpson asked.

Gray said: “I hope that Ferguson Marine can continue to make progress to being a commercially successful yard. That was the intention of saving the last commercial yard on the Clyde. To ensure that we protect the jobs and protect the manufacturing base that is there and the traditions of Scottish manufacturing.

The National:

“Clearly there have been challenges at Ferguson's, that is well documented, but we continue to work with the management and the workforce to ensure that the two vessels are delivered as quickly as possible. And then there is the opportunity for Fergusons to bid for further work and to make itself commercially successful.”

Asked if it was the Government’s intention to “return Ferguson Marine to the private sector”, Gray said: “Yes.”

Asked how that point could be reached, the Cabinet Secretary said: “The better Fergusons is performing the more likely it is that it’s going to return to private ownership.

“We’ll continue to, if there are interested parties coming forward who will talk to government or indeed to our agencies, then clearly we will take that interest seriously and do what we can to ensure that the yard is returned as a commercial going concern into private ownership as quickly as possible.”

Despite the yard failing to build ferries on budget or on time, a report from Audit Scotland presented to MSPs in March showed that £87,000 in performance bonuses were paid to senior managers in 2021/22.

The report also warned that Ferguson Marine may not have a viable future.

Auditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle said: “It is unacceptable that performance bonuses were awarded to senior managers at the shipyard, without proper governance for such payments. The Scottish Government needs to make sure its rules over pay are followed by this public body.”