QUESTIONS have been asked by MSPs after it was revealed Ferguson's shipyard has been secretly loaned millions of pounds by the Scottish Government.

Details of a £15 million package were shared with Holyrood's finance committee but withheld from taxpayers due to 'commercial confidentiality'.

It was announced earlier this year that the government had loaned the Port Glasgow yard £30m — meaning the total outlay now stands at £45m.

Tory MSP Jamie Greene said: "This is a significant sum of public money secretly provided to a private company and the SNP has conspicuously failed to announce it or explain it.

"This revelation raises many serious unanswered questions: most importantly, why was this initial £15m given to Ferguson Marine and what was the money spent on?

"The SNP must urgently clarify both the process by which Ferguson Marine received £45m of taxpayers’ money and outline the loan terms and when or if taxpayers will see any return."

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced in June a £30m loan to Fergusons to help the firm 'diversify' into low-carbon marine projects and decommissioning work.

But Mr Mackay did not declare mention that he had already loaned Ferguson's up to £15m in September last year, and that this had already been fully drawn down by April.

Details of the loan only came to light after the government was asked under freedom of information laws if it had given any public funds besides the declared £30m loan to Ferguson Marine.

The government replied: "In September 2017 the Scottish Government agreed to provide a commercial loan facility of up to £15m to Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited.

"This facility was fully drawn in the financial year 2017-18 and the expenditure will be recorded in the Scottish Government’s Consolidated Accounts for 2017-18 when they are published in September 2018."

A government spokesman added: "Scottish shipbuilding has a long and proud history, and it is essential we continue to support the industry to thrive and help it reach its full potential."

Mr McColl, who sits on the First Minister's council of economic advisers, bought Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow after it went into administration in 2014.

The following year the yard won a £97m Scottish Government contract to build two new 'dual fuel' ferries for government-owned Caledonian MacBrayne, securing work for 15- staff.

But delivery of the two vessels have been significantly delayed.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth linked the cash to a 'fundamental problem' with the delayed ferry orders, adding: "The lack of action by the Scottish Government means more and more taxpayers’ money is being poured in and these latest revelations show there has been a lack of transparency from government on how much."

Ferguson Marine Engineering has blamed unforeseen complexities with the ferry order for the delays.

A spokesman said: "As we work with to resolve these claims with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (which owns the CalMac fleet) the Scottish Government has provided us with two commercial loans in the amount of £15m and £30m.

"These loans also support the further diversification of the business and the securing of new contracts for the yard."