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by Louise Wilson
14 November 2023
Ferguson Marine shipyard future uncertain as ministers delay investment decision

The Glen Sannox is nearing completion | Alamy

Ferguson Marine shipyard future uncertain as ministers delay investment decision

The future of Ferguson Marine shipyard remains uncertain after ministers delayed a decision on investment.

The Inverclyde-based shipyard made a request for capital expenditure from the Scottish Government as part of a plan to ensure it remains competitive.

But addressing parliament on Tuesday, economy secretary Neil Gray said the business plan behind that request did not meet a key legal test for providing subsidies.

The cabinet secretary said the government was working with the yard to “refine” the business plan.

He said: “We will leave no stone unturned on finding a way forward, and will consider all options for securing a future based on a promising order book. This will be done at pace and I expect to report back on progress as soon as possible.

“I understand this may be unsettling for the workforce, but it is important that we get this right. I hope that I’m leaving no one in any doubt about this government’s commitment to retaining shipbuilding on the Clyde.”

The beleaguered shipyard ran into considerable financial difficulties while building two new ferries for the Clyde and Hebrides route.

It was taken into public ownership four years ago after going into administration following a dispute with ferry procurement body CMAL.

The two vessels are more than five years late and hugely over-budget. The latest prediction put the final cost at £240m, more than double the original £97m price tag.

Gray said the government “remain committed” to the delivery of these two vessels. He confirmed the ferries had recently been approved by the safety regulator following changes to design, which had come with some additional costs.

Glen Sannox is expected to enter service in March next year, with sea trials due to begin in January.

The second ferry, the Glen Rosa, is further behind on construction but Gray said going through a process of re-procurement “would be highly detrimental” to the island communities the ferries will serve, as it would likely push delivery back to 2028.

He added he was “not prepared to let our communities down.”

Tory transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said workers watching this statement will be “feeling a sense of despair”. He added the shipyard would not be able to secure a full order book without investment.

Labour’s Katy Clark added there had been a “catalogue of mistakes” made by shipyard management and the Scottish Government. She said the government “cannot stand back and sabotage the shipyard” by not investing in it and therefore preventing it from being competitive.

Trade union GMB Scotland, which represents a number of workers at the yard, said the statement had done little to reassure staff.

Senior organier Gary Cook said: “Our members deserve urgent assurance and, more importantly, detailed investment plans to ensure the yard is competitive and secure a pipeline of future work.”

He added: “There is nothing to stop this yard having the brightest possible future and the Scottish Government must urgently help secure it.”

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