Glasgow & West Scotland

Swinney: Investors urgently needed to save shipbuilder

Ferguson Shipbuilders
Image caption Administrators have made 70 staff redundant at Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow

New investors may need to found within days if the financially-stricken Ferguson Shipbuilder in Port Glasgow is to be saved, MSPs have been told.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the yard would lose its "critical asset", its workforce, without progress.

About 70 staff were made redundant on Friday after the firm went bust due to a lack of orders and cash flow issues.

McGill's Buses owners, James and Sandy Easdale are in talks about a possible rescue package with the administrators.

Following the financial collapse of Ferguson Shipbuilders, the Scottish government and Inverclyde Council set up a joint task force to look at ways of saving the business.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Swinney said: "The taskforce has unanimously agreed that there will be concerted and coherent effort to do everything in our collective and combined powers to secure a new owner for the yard.

"We are determined to see shipbuilding continue on the lower Clyde."

The finance secretary stressed that there was a need for a new owner to be found to take on the yard quickly.

Mr Swinney said: "We do believe the way forward is with new ownership and new investment, and it is the supremely urgent priority of the next few days to ensure that, because without securing that investment in the next few days there is the danger that the critical asset of Ferguson's, the workforce, will start to dissipate as individuals understandably try to secure alternative opportunities to support their families."

To that end, he stated: "The identification of new ownership is the absolute and immediate priority of the government."

The finance secretary also told MSPs that ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) would need to replace a dozen of its vessels in the next 10 years, adding this work could be worth as much as £250m.

Mr Swinney said half of these were a similar size to two "cutting-edge" hybrid ferries build at the Port Glasgow yard recently that are powered by both diesel and electricity.

"I firmly believe there is a viable future for shipbuilding on the lower Clyde," Mr Swinney said.

"Our aspiration for future ferry orders remains and I have allocated significant capital funds to Transport Scotland to deliver this.

"The Scottish Ferries plan sets out a series of vessel procurements over the next decade, 12 current CalMac vessels are to be replaced at an estimated cost of up to £250 million. Half of these are vessels of a size similar to the two hybrid ferries recently build by Fergusons.

"There will certainly be construction work for a new owner of Fergusons to compete for, as well as regular repair and maintenance work from Cal Mac.

"There is sufficient work to sustain Fergusons under a new owner with the vision and commitment to invest in the shipyard and its workforce."

Mr Swinney added: "We would work closely with any new owner to support them in building a sustainable business, recognising this can not happen overnight.

"Our goal continues to be to secure the vital future of Scotland's shipbuilding industry. The government will do all it can to work with others to secure the future of shipbuilding on the lower Clyde."

Greenock-based businessmen Sandy and James Easdale expressed an interest on Monday on possibly putting together a deal to save Ferguson Shipbuilders.

In a statement, Sandy Easdale said: "This is a highly-skilled workforce and it is a vital business for our area. With government assistance, both in Edinburgh and London, I am sure we can secure orders."

Both Easdale brothers arrived at the shipyard on Tuesday for a meeting with joint administrators from KPMG.

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