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By Hugh Boag
Nationalisation could deliver the new and much delayed Arran ferry in 18 months, it was claimed this week.
An announcement was expected imminently that the Scottish government is to take over the shipyard where the MV Glen Sannox and her sister ship lie half-finished, as the Banner went to press.
It seems almost certain that the Scottish government will step in and nationalise the beleaguered Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow where there has been a lengthy and bitter dispute over the cost of the two vessels.
But even when it is confirmed that they plan this course of action, there is no guarantee that it will lead to a speedy delivery of the dual fuel vessel, which has caused so much of the trouble, to service on the Ardrossan to Brodick route.
Even with the most optimistic forecast it is all but certain that the ferry will not enter service until the summer of 2021 at the earliest – a staggering three years late.
The story has dominated the TV, radio and national press this week with much concern being expressed at the cost of nationalisation and the industrial strategy of the SNP government taking on a shipyard which was only saved from administration five years ago.
However, there has been little talk of what it means for the delivery of the Arran ferry and her sister ship known only as Hull 802 due to serve the Uig Triangle.
Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘I have been in regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and the situation is evolving rapidly.
‘With FMEL facing imminent administration, Scottish ministers feel the only way to save the jobs of the 290 workers and ensure ferry completion is to nationalise the yard.
‘Without nationalisation, the yard would not only close immediately, the workers would be sacked and the ferries impounded by the administrator, pending sale or liquidation of the assets. All this would kick the completion of the MV Glen Sannox well into the future.
‘Scottish ministers will set up an expert group to oversee completion of the yard’s nationalisation, putting management in place and getting work re-started on the vessels by the end of next month/early October. CMAL will take charge until then.
‘Both vessels should be completed in around 18 months and additional funding will be provided to ensure that. At this point, I cannot say how much, as a full assessment will be required, once CMAL take charge of the yard.
‘As yet, no completion date has been decided for the Glen Sannox. However, it is unlikely to enter service next year, with 2021 probable.’
Earlier this week Finance Secretary Derek Mackay confirmed that the Scottish government were ‘ready and willing’ to take the yard into public ownership with the cost of the two ferries being build there having almost doubled from the original £97 million contract cost.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, said that nationalising Ferguson Marine raises more questions than answers and that once again the SNP government has created a financial mess that the taxpayer will ultimately have to pay for.
The West of Scotland MSP said: ‘Given the SNP’s poor track record on running nationalised businesses, there is no guarantee that doing so will provide any long term security to the business, deliver a finished product or provide any comfort to the workers and their families.’