Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “not apologise” for decisions taken with the aim of saving the Ferguson Marine shipyard.
The yard was nationalised in 2019, but island communities are still awaiting the delivery of two new ferries, with the project facing delays as well as being over-budget.
Earlier this week, businessman Jim McColl hit out at the First Minister over her claim that the yard would have closed had the Government not intervened.
McColl accused the SNP leader of lying about the number of jobs that were saved at the yard at the time and said there was “no danger” of the yard closing at the time.
The First Minister, however, has defended the actions taken by her government, as she pointed to 400 workers who are currently employed at the yard.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday – being held a day early at the Scottish Parliament due to the local election on Thursday.
Ross called for Sturgeon to issue an apology to those impacted by the ferry delays.
“A quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent and not a single ferry built,” he said.
“The crucial document detailing why this awful decision was made has disappeared. But all we hear from Nicola Sturgeon is this is ‘regrettable’.
“Regrettable? First Minister, when you suggested chopping off the bottom of classroom doors, that was regrettable.
“Wasting a quarter of a billion pounds is much, much worse.
“First Minister, do you understand how angry it makes the public to use weasel words like regrettable, rather than giving them the apology they deserve?”
Sturgeon insisted that the Government is focused on ensuring that the ferries at the yard are completed.
She said: “I know there’s a lot of anger in Scotland, right across Scotland, right now,. I’m not sure it’s for the reason Douglas Ross has raised today, and I suspect he’s going to feel the full force of that tomorrow.
“On the issue of ferries, I’ve made very clear that the delays, the cost overruns are deeply regrettable.
“And I believe that when things don’t go right in government, it is important that leaders say so. If only other governments followed the same principle perhaps things might be a bit different.
“But I will not, and I am afraid I’m not going to be moved from this, I will not apologise for decisions that allowed the last commercial shipbuilder on the Clyde to continue in business.
“That allows 400 workers to be employed there today, earning a wage, supporting their families, and I will not apologise for investment in new ferries.
“Because the Government is focused on ensuring that these ferries are completed as part of our overall investment in Scotland’s ferry network.
“So, I’ll always take responsibility when things don’t go right, but I’ll continue to act in a way that is in the interests of this country overall.”
Ross added: “Nicola Sturgeon says she’s taking responsibility, those are weasel words to the island communities that are still without these vital ferries.
“Her only justification for charging ahead against expert advice has been grandstanding that she saved the jobs.
“Now it emerged she didn’t – the jobs were never at risk.”