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First Minister launched new Arran ferry at Ferguson shipyard with painted-on ‘windows’

© Andrew Milligan / PA WireJim McColl and Nicola Sturgeon, left, watch on after she launched the MV Glen Sannox  at the Ferguson Shipyard in 2017
Jim McColl and Nicola Sturgeon, left, watch on after she launched the MV Glen Sannox at the Ferguson Shipyard in 2017

She was launched by Nicola Sturgeon amid a fanfare of publicity.

But, as the MV Glen Sannox rolled down the slipway, everything was not as it seemed.

For the eco-friendly ferry was so far from being completed that what appeared to be windows on her bridge were actually squares of black paint.

Almost two years later, the MV Glen Sannox is yet to be completed due to a series of problems that saw the Ferguson shipyard locked in a bitter battle with the Scottish Government over rising costs.

In August the company slid into administration and the shipyard was nationalised. More than 300 workers are now paid by the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile, the multi-million-pound ferry that is supposed to serve passengers on the Arran route floats on the Clyde, metres from where the First Minister launched her in 2017.

Yesterday Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport Jamie Greene said: “The so-called launch was nothing more than a sham to afford SNP ministers the chance to grandstand in front of cameras, when they themselves did absolutely nothing to resolve the growing dispute between the yard, CMAL and the government.

“So many unanswered questions about the contract, the dispute, the ship type, the loans and the future of the yard remain, it seems the only way to resolve this mess is for the SNP to agree to a full public enquiry.”

The £97m order for two new ferries for state-owned CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) came after billionaire Jim McColl rescued the Port Glasgow yard when it went bust in 2014.

But the contract went over budget and Mr McColl could not persuade ministers to pay more than the contract price.

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith, who represents shipyard workers, has also called for an inquiry to establish why the First Minister launched a ferry that had no windows, and why a world-leading ferry was commissioned instead of a “workhorse”.

He said: “What appears as windows are actually black paint. Passenger seating was ordered only for the designs to change and with it the seating plans. Warranties for engines and component parts will likely expire before the ferries were actually in operation.

“But who thought it was a good idea to purchase a ‘first in class’ vessel for the Ardrossan-Brodick route?

“A workhorse that could be put to sea as quickly as possible was the requirement and if a proper industrial plan for Ferguson was put in place in 2014, it’s likely this could have been avoided.”

The Scottish Government is currently seeking a buyer for Ferguson.

A spokesman said: “It is not for us to speculate on what the difficulties may or may not have been within FMEL (Ferguson) delivering these fixed-price contracts. The management of the contract was for FMEL and CMAL. The Scottish Government has explored every avenue within its power to help the two parties resolve this issue.”

A CMAL spokeswoman said: “Progress on the vessels has been slower than expected for some time, and there were scheduled elements of the build that were not complete ahead of the launch of MV Glen Sannox, such as the bridge windows.

“The vessels are not first in class.

“Our main priority is the delivery of our two vessels and we are focused on that.”