The Scottish Government cannot guarantee that there will be no further cost increases for two delayed and overbudget ferries, MSPs have been told.
Wellbeing economy secretary Neil Gray said that while he did “not want to see a further cost overrun” for the Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa – both of which are being built by the Ferguson Marine yard on the Clyde – he could not give any firm commitments on this.
“Obviously, I can’t guarantee that,” Gray told MSPs on Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.
His comments came as the committee scrutinised the Scottish Government’s budget’s for 2024-25, with MSPs told that £42.5m has been set aside for the two ferries, being built for state-owned operator CalMac, for this financial year.
Gray, who is due to meet bosses at the Port Glasgow shipyard later this week, said previous discussions with senior staff there had “emphasised there is a need for us to deliver these vessels as quickly as possible”.
The Wellbeing Economy Secretary added: “I don’t want to see any further delay.”
He also told the committee the Government was “bearing down on costs” with regards to the two vessels.
The Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa have faced multi-year delays and have a price tag of at least £360m – compared to an initial estimate of £97m.
Gray said he had stressed to the shipyard that stretched public finances mean “that the availability of further resource is limited, and they need to be ensuring they are bearing down on costs”.
However, he said the Scottish Government could consider giving publicly owned Ferguson Marine money to modernise its facilities to try to help make the Port Glasgow yard more competitive when it comes to bidding for other contracts.
Asked by committee convener Edward Mountain if there was any money in the budget for the shipyard, Gray said there was “a discussion to be” based on a business plan to be produced by Ferguson Marine.
When that happened, he said, the Government would “have a consideration over where we can finance it and where that finance would come from”.
While he stressed that making a direct award to the yard would only be permitted in “very limited circumstances”, Gray said ministers’ strongly desired to “bring up the productivity of the yard in order to allow it to compete for future work”.
He stated: “The Government remains committed to Ferguson Marine, to delivering Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa in as speedy a time as possible, because we have got island communities who are in desperate need of these vessels.
“We also remain committed to doing everything that we can to ensure the future of commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde, which Ferguson Marine is going to be central to.”
Gray added that if Ferguson Marin could “come forward with a plan” that would pass the funding tests, “then we would look to find that money to ensure we can invest in the yard”.
He added: “It would come from the Scottish budget somewhere, but we’re dealing with hypotheticals.”
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