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Calmac ferry contract row heading for court as dispute over soaring cost of new boats continues

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A DISPUTE over the cost of two new CalMac ferries is set to go to court – with taxpayers facing a huge legal bill.

The Scottish Government quango which ordered the ships is at loggerheads with builder Ferguson Marine over claims design changes have sent costs soaring.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) is refusing to stump up any more cash for the project and is understood to have an independent report which backs up its position.

However, Ferguson Marine is also understood to have an independent report which states there has been substantive changes to the original £97 million contract to build two dual-fuel ferries.

Billionaire owner of Ferguson Marine, Jim McColl, last week warned he was prepared to take CMAL to court and sources say it is now highly likely that it will end up in the Court of Session.

Ferguson has already been given a £45m loan facility by the Scottish Government and any court action would involve legal fees, likely to be six-figures, for public body CMAL.

GMB Scotland organiser Gary Cook said: “Our priority is the defence of jobs and modern apprenticeship opportunities supported by Ferguson Marine.

“What we need now is for the adults in the room to take charge, establish the root of the problem and resolve it.”

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “The courts are the last place fed up islanders want to see this process dragged into.”

Ferguson Marine failed to respond to a request for a comment. CMAL said they had nothing more to add to Mr Hobbs’ comments.