Public ownership an option for Ferguson shipyard

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The shipyard, beside Newark Castle, is expected to be in administration by the end of next week

The Scottish government says it is considering nationalising the beleaguered Ferguson shipyard.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said taking the Port Glasgow site, which is due to enter administration, into public ownership was an option.

The site currently employs about 350 staff and has been in a long-running dispute with the Scottish government over a contract to build two ferries.

The £97m deal for CalMac is behind schedule and considerably over budget.

Ferguson’s has said it expects to lose nearly £40m on the ferry deal, which is being procured through the public-sector agency CMAL.

On Friday, Ferguson Marine Engineering directors served notice of their intent to go into administration by the end of next week.

Chief executive Gerry Marshall said the decision had been made “with great regret and disappointment”, but that directors considered there not to be “any other options in the current circumstances.”

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Two CalMac ferries have been at the centre of a long-running dispute

Mr Mackay said nationalising the shipyard was being considered as a way to protect jobs and the future of the site.

He said: “Public ownership is an option. It is one of the options that we’ve been looking at.

“We wanted to try and find a commercial proposition that would work. We’re disappointed that we’ve not been able to do that with the company owners.

“But we’ve made a commitment around the jobs, around the vessels and a future for the yard and that’s what we’re working on intensively right now.”

‘Big future’

Mr Mackay said the government had “a range of possibilities and options open to us” and added: “The objectives I’m setting out for Ferguson’s specifically is to complete those vessels currently under construction – because we need them, to secure employment at the yard and to give the yard a future.”

Gary Smith, the Scotland organiser for the GMB Union, said taking the yards into public ownership was the right thing to do.

He said: “The only realistic option, the only way to secure the future of the yard, and most importantly for us – our members’ jobs, is for the Scottish government to step in and nationalise the yard. I think that’s what will happen and I think it’s the right thing to do and those yards have got a very big future.”

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Gary Smith of the GMB said the yard had a big future despite its troubles

It comes weeks after the yard’s parent company, Clyde Blowers Capital – which is controlled by industrial tycoon Jim McColl – tabled a proposal for the Scottish government to take a share of ownership. However, the government rejected that plan.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jamie Greene has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the troubles at the shipyard.

He said the blame lay solely at the feet of the SNP government, which he accused of “recklessly” mismanaging the ferry contract.

“It is impossible to chart a way forward for the yard until we get to the bottom of both why things have gone so financially awry and what can now be done differently to secure a longer-term future for Scotland’s shipbuilding industry,” he said.

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