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Rising ferry costs ‘deeply disappointing’ says economy secretary Mairi McAllan

Credit: Alamy

Rising ferry costs ‘deeply disappointing’ says economy secretary Mairi McAllan

The new economy secretary has said the rising cost of two late and over-budget ferries is “deeply disappointing”.

Making a statement to parliament, Mairi McAllan said she has urged shipbuilder Ferguson Marine to take steps to avoid further increases.

It was confirmed last week that the price of the Glen Sannox – set to be handed over to the ferry operator at the end of May – will be between £145.5m and £149.1m once completed.

The second vessel, the Glen Rosa, could cost as much as £150m. It is not expected to enter service until September 2025.

The original price tag for the ferries was meant to be £97m for both. They were due to be delivered in 2018.

McAllan said: “The level of these increases remains deeply disappointing, and I share the frustration that will be felt by everyone across the parliament and indeed in our country.”

The Scottish Government has instructed an external agency to undertake due diligence of these latest projections.

McAllan added that completing the vessels at the yard had been the “fastest possible route” to get them over the line after years of delays.

CMAL is expected to take ownership of six new vessels – including some being built in Turkey – by 2026.

The future of the Ferguson Marine shipyard, based in Port Glasgow, remains uncertain. Last year the former economy secretary Neil Gray delayed a decision on investment in the yard as the business case did not meet necessary criteria.

A new business plan is expected by the end of the month.

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said there was an “urgent need” for a decision once those plans had been submitted, as McAllan’s statement “fails to give assurances to yard and workforce”. He added: “There must be capital investment into the yard.”

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said the yard was “crying out for orders” and urged Ferguson Marine to be given contracts as part of the small vessel replacement programme.

This call was backed by Tory MSP Jamie Greene, who added: “Why is the Scottish Government, which actually owns this yard, not today committing to a small vessel build project in Inverclyde – or is it most likely that Turkey once again will be the main benefactors of Scottish ferry building contracts?”

McAllan accepted it would be an “unsettling time for the workforce”, but she refused to commit to awarding new build contracts to the yard, saying this could only be done in “limited circumstances”.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said there had been nothing new to come from the cabinet secretary’s statement. He said: “Any islanders who were watching this will, not for the first time, have been disappointed because they might have been expected some news, some announcement, that would give them some hope, something that they didn’t already know, but that wasn’t in this statement.”

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