BOSSES from a Scottish Government-owned body have blasted back at Ferguson's owner Jim McColl as a row over a £97m ferries order escalates.

Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL), the organisation which ordered the vessels, has flatly rejected claims made by the billionaire that it should take the blame for design changes to MV Glen Sannox and therefore be liable for extra costs.

Kevin Hobbs, chief executive of CMAL, says responsibility for the extra costs is squarely with Mr McColl’s Port Glasgow shipyard

Mr Hobbs has also appeared to take a swipe at Mr McColl, saying that CMAL had been 'extremely honourable' and hadn’t 'moaned and groaned' about the contract publicly.

He made the remarks after Mr McColl gave an interview saying he was on the verge of taking CMAL to court over design-related delays.

Delivery of the prototype vessels has been delayed to next summer and spring 2020.

Since the hold-ups first emerged in July 2017, the Scottish Government has loaned Ferguson's £45m of taxpayers’ money to ensure the yard’s continued 'viability'.

Mr McColl says he is 'very frustrated with CMAL', adding that they 'should have carried out more design and development work on this project before they put it out to tender'.

But CMAL's chief is adamant that Ferguson's had bid for and signed a 'fixed price' design and build contract, and added that CMAL did not intend to pay a penny more.

He said: “They signed up to that contract knowingly and willingly, and as far as we’re concerned £97m is what we have to pay.

“We can judge that it will be costing an awful lot more.

"Our assertion at this particular point in time is that is not our problem.

“That is the problem of a private company that knowingly and willingly bid for these vessels."

He also suggested CMAL might not even pay the £97m, as the contract allowed for 'liquidated damages', or compensation, for missed delivery dates and quality issues.

Mr Hobbs said: ”There are a number of things at the end of the contract which we will have to weigh up.”