A TURKISH shipyard will officially be awarded the contract to build two new boats for Scotland’s ferry service, it has been announced.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the firm which owns much of Scotland’s ferry infrastructure, has announced two new boats to serve Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert will be built by the Cemre Marin Endustri A.S in Turkey.

It is the same yard contracted to build new ferries to serve Islay and the Little Minch route boats will be built to the same specifications as those currently under construction.

There will be a 10-day “standstill” period before the contract is finalised and officially awarded to the yard, CMAL said.

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An update on the forecasted delivery dates will be issued early in January, the firm added.

It comes amid ongoing controversy about the delays to two CalMac ferries being built in Port Glasgow, which are severely delayed and overbudget.

The Scottish Government’s transport minister said Friday’s announcement could mean the two boats could be deployed on the route between the mainland to Arran to help boost capacity during the busy season.

Jim Anderson, director of vessels at CMAL, said: “This is a big step forward in procuring two new vessels for the Little Minch routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert. These ferries will deliver dedicated services to North Uist and Harris in the peak season, rather than the shared vessel operation currently in place.

“We will now enter a 10-day standstill period before finalising the contract. We intend to share an update in early January after the festive period with further information, such as forecasted delivery dates.”

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities, so I’m pleased to see CMAL name the preferred bidder for the two additional ferries.

“I hope this progress will be welcomed by island communities who depend on these lifeline ferry services. 

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“Our intention is that these vessels will be deployed on the Skye triangle routes to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, creating the opportunity to significantly increase capacity and resilience by delivering dedicated services to communities in the peak season. 

“It will also allow consideration of all options to deploy Vessel 802 on an alternative route. All of these options will be discussed with island communities, including potentially operating alongside her sister ship, the MV Glen Sannox, to provide additional capacity to and from Arran in the peak season. 

“It is imperative that island communities have their say in any future deployments. I look forward to continuing engagement through our work on Project Neptune to improve the delivery of ferry services on the Clyde and Hebrides network.”

Willie Rennie, the LibDems’ economy spokesperson, said the announcement was a “stark reminder of the mismanagement of the ferry construction programme under the SNP”.

He added: “Over budget and over time - that is the hallmark of the SNP and it is the islanders, the taxpayers and the shipyard workers that feel the pain.

“No wonder Scottish Government-owned Ferguson didn't even bid for these two ferries.

"We need a recovery programme for Ferguson so that it is capable of winning future contracts."