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Minister urged to deliver ferry contracts to protect shipyard

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Kate Forbes has been urged to award crucial contracts to Ferguson Marine at a cross-party summit to secure the shipyard’s future.

The deputy first minister attended the talks in Greenock today and was told the contract for seven small ferries is vital to protect the publicly-owned yard.

Forbes, who is also economy secretary, was urged to invest in Ferguson's future at the two-hour summit, arranged by GMB Scotland, the biggest union at the Port Glasgow yard.

Previous talks helped secure all-party support for the yard and its workforce after contracts for two CalMac ferries were blighted by delays and overspends.

The Scottish Government insists an announcement on the contract to build small ferries for CalMac is imminent but Forbes was told any more delay risks the skills and expertise in place at the yard.

On her first external engagement since taking over as deputy first minister, Forbes promised securing a sustainable future for the yard was a priority for the Scottish Government - "no ifs, no buts".

She said a decision on the small ferries' contract was imminent while consideration of a business plan built on new investment to modernise the yard was also well advanced.

After the talks, Gary Cook, GMB Scotland senior organiser in engineering and manufacturing, said: “The need for a pipeline of work to support this yard could not be clearer or more urgent.

“The small ferries’ contract must be the start of that pipeline and is exactly the kind of work this yard successfully completed for many years.

“These contracts would become a springboard back to profitability and help the workforce repay taxpayers for the faith and investment already placed in the yard.

“The workers are committed, skilled and completely blameless for the errors made in recent years and must be given the chance to show that.

“Kate Forbes will leave Greenock today under no illusion about how important these contracts are to the yard and how they will help protect its shipbuilding heritage for generations to come.

"We appreciate her support but would appreciate a secure pipeline of work even more."

At the STUC congress in Dundee last month, Alex Logan, GMB convener at Fergusons, who also attended the summit, warned only new contracts could safeguard skills and protects jobs crucial to the economy of communities across Inverclyde.

He said: “We have been clear to the Scottish Government that if they want to secure a future for the yard and jobs there, then it needs investment to modernise the yard and make it more competitive.

“We need a direct award of the small ferries which we have a track record in building and continued public ownership.

“Like many of the workers at Ferguson Marine before me, I have been a shipbuilder there all of my life.

“What we are fighting for now is the future of the generations to come.”

Days before, Forbes’ predecessor as economy secretary, Mairi McAllan, attended the launch of the Glen Rosa, one of the two delayed ferries, when she promised the Scottish Government would continue to support the nationalised yard and its workforce.

She said: "The Scottish Government stands with the workers of Ferguson Marine and the community of Port Glasgow and Inverclyde.

“We stood behind you at nationalisation, we stand behind you today as your work comes to fruition and we stand with you long into the future."