UNION and civic leaders reacted angrily today to Caledonian MacBrayne's decision to get a new Clyde ferry built in Poland instead of Port Glasgow.

An £8.75 million ferry for the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route will be built by the Remontowa Group in Gdansk rather than by Ferguson's.

CalMac chairman, Dr Harold Mills, said: 'The eight tenders from throughout Europe were very competitive. The Remontowa option was clearly the best in terms of value for money, reliability and delivery guarantees.` But Provost Ciano Rebecchi called on state-owned CalMac to consider social issues as well as costs when they award contracts.

He said: `We must have a close look at European Union rules. Other countries don't always play by the rules, but we do and we get sore noses.` Bernie Hamilton, convener of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, claimed Polish yards were unfairly subsidised.

And Ferguson's shop stewards convener, Crawford McKechnie, said: `We're gutted that a state-owned company is giving an order to another country.` But a CalMac spokesman said they had to abide by strict European Union procurement laws.

CalMac revealed that Ferguson's would have had the hull built abroad if they had won the contract.

Only one yard, based in England, offered to build the hull in the UK, said CalMac technical director, Tom McNeil.

It is understood this is because of the price of steel in the UK.

Ferguson's managing director, Richard Deane, said: `We have never built a hull elsewhere before and the idea was not fixed in concrete.` Ferguson's have taken on 70 people this year to boost the workforce to 320. They are working on three chain-link ferries and also have a fishery protection ship order that will keep them occupied until the end of next year.

Mr Deane said they are chasing two other orders, and added: `We hope to have more success with these other orders.` The ferry is due for delivery in the summer of 2005 and will carry approximately 60 cars and 450 passengers.