Scotland’s finance secretary Derek Mackay has said Ferguson Marine, which is due to enter administration, could be taken into public ownership
Directors at the Port Glasgow-based shipyard served notice of intent to go into administration on 9 August. This came in the wake of a long-running dispute with the Scottish National Party-run government over constructing two prototype LNG dual-fuel ferries for Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), the state-owned company that provides ferry services and associated infrastructure for routes in the west of Scotland, the Firth of Clyde, Orkney and Shetland. The £97m fixed price contract for the two ferries has reportedly doubled in cost, in part due to technical complexities in developing and installing dual-fuel propulsion.
“The Scottish Government has now indicated to all relevant parties that we are ready and willing to take Ferguson Marine into public ownership and deliver the ferries to secure the continued employment of the workforce in the yard,” said Mr Mackay in an interview with The Times Scotland on Saturday.
“There remains a process to go through to secure the transfer of the yard to the Scottish Government, and we are hopeful that all parties recognise the importance of completing that transfer as quickly and smoothly as possible,” he added.
In an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Mr Mackay also said that the government would not "hand over a cheque" to cover completion of the ferries as it would be "illegal" and against EU state aid rules.
Trade union GMB Scotland has backed the nationalisation plan, which would save 350 jobs, tweeting “This is a national asset and we believe public ownership is the right way to go.”
GMB’s general secretary for Scotland Gary Smith told the BBC: "There has been a problem with two contracts but the truth is we are going to have to renew the fleet of CalMac ferries because frankly they’re clapped out.
"We know there are other commercial opportunities out there and we know that Ferguson’s is at the cutting edge of hydrogen technology and above all, the greatest asset at the yard that we’ve got is the workforce."
Founded in 1903, Ferguson Shipbuilders was rescued from administration in 2014 by engineering investment firm Clyde Blowers Capital, owned by entrepreneur and government economic adviser Jim McColl.
Mr McColl has previously criticised plans to nationalise Ferguson Marine, telling UK newspaper Mail on Sunday that it made "no economic sense" and that it would "damage the economy."
Ferguson Marine is also involved in Orkney’s HySeas III hydrogen fuel-cell ferry project as builder, with construction expected to start in 2020 and the vessel due to hit the water in mid-2021.