BOSSES at the struggling Ferguson Marine shipyard have come under fire for awarding themselves cash bonuses without approval from the Scottish Government. 

The shipyard, which was nationalised by SNP ministers in 2019 as it struggled to complete an order for two new car ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), is facing an uncertain future as the vessels remain unfinished and it is unclear when they will be completed or at what cost. 

A report from Audit Scotland presented to MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday issued a damning update on the state of the shipyard.

The report highlighted that £87,000 in performance bonuses were paid to senior managers in 2021/22, with doubts raised about the assessment process and governance around these payments. 

It also warned that Ferguson Marine may not have a viable future. 

Auditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle said: “It is unacceptable that performance bonuses were awarded to senior managers at the shipyard, without proper governance for such payments. The Scottish Government needs to make sure its rules over pay are followed by this public body.”

The National: Stephen Boyle is the auditor general for Scotland

Boyle also expressed concerns about the ultimate expenses and completion deadlines of the two ferries that are being constructed at the shipyard now owned by the Scottish Government. 

These ferries, which were due to be completed five years ago, include the Glen Sannox that is scheduled to be handed over to CalMac by May. 

According to the report, the current estimate for the cost of both ships is £293m, but there is uncertainty regarding the final sum. Audit Scotland has also estimated a £9.5m shortfall despite the Scottish Government's confirmation of funding for 2022/23 and 2023/24.

Ferguson Marine chief executive David Tydeman told The Scotsman that the board of directors and remuneration committee accepted Boyle’s observations about the payments paid in the year to March 2022.

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He added: “The board has already introduced greater transparency and governance in terms of future retention incentives. Scottish Ministers appointed a new chair, Andrew Miller, in January and we now have in place a framework that will improve the governance of future performance-related payments.

"I would stress that the construction costs to build both vessels are not a major contributing factor to this funding gap. The company is largely holding to the agreed budget submitted in September 2022 to complete construction.”

Tydeman insisted there was a strong future for the yard. “We intend to submit a strong bid for Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited’s small vessel replacement programme and believe we are well placed to win this contract, given our experience of exactly this type of work in the past.

"Securing this business, alongside completion of the two dual fuel vessels, is now our primary focus and central to the future of the yard.”

Neil Bibby, Scottish Labour transport spokesperson, said: "This damning report underlines what mess the SNP has made of these ferry contracts.

"Islanders, taxpayers and yard workers are all being failed at every turn, and we still can’t get straight answers on what went so badly wrong.

"While the public purse picks up the tab for spiralling costs, senior management are being handed fat cat bonuses with no scrutiny.

"The SNP need to get a grip of this shambles, deliver these lifeline ferries and secure a future for this iconic shipyard."