FERGUSON'S could be set to land more Scottish Government ferry contracts and remains in the running for lucrative Royal Navy frigate work.

Scotland's finance and economy secretary, Derek Mackay, gave assurances in an update to MSPs about the future of the Port Glasgow shipyard.

Mr Mackay also announced that the initial deadline to find a buyer for Ferguson's, which is in administration, is 'expected to last another two to four weeks'.

The original four-week time limit ends this Friday.

The government has vowed to nationalise the yard if a new commercial operator cannot be found.

Last week, the Tele revealed that there have been 21 expressions of interest in the business.

The government assumed control of Ferguson Marine on August 16 in a deal with administrators to retain the 300-plus staff, seek a buyer and thrash out a plan to complete the delayed CalMac vessels, MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which are expected to cost double the original £97m budget.

While that remains the sole focus, Mr Mackay confirmed the yard could be at the heart of renewing the country's stretched and ageing ferry fleet.

He said: "I want the optimal structure that gives the maximum amount of work to Ferguson's so that it has a future. "That comes back to the question whether we need to replace and invest in the ferry fleet.

"Yes, we do. "Is there the prospect of other work going to Ferguson's too?

"Yes, there is."

The finance secretary says the yard also remains in the hunt for a share of a lucrative £1.25 billion Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to build five new Royal Navy Type 31e frigates - despite concerns that nationalisation could hamper its ability to take on such work.

Ferguson's is part of two consortia in the running for the work, including one led by Babcock, which according to reports, is tipped to be named the preferred bidder.

Mr Mackay said: "There are choices around the governance arrangements and, if we go from public control to public ownership, there are issues to do with how the company could be structured to do complementary work. "My focus is also on the potential for other work, and we want a structure that ensures that Ferguson can take the work.

"I am making our objectives clear and the structure will ensure that we can maximise opportunities."

An announcement about the Royal Navy contract is expected soon.

A spokesperson for the MoD said: "The competition to procure the Type 31 frigate is still ongoing and the preferred bidder for the design and manufacture of the ships will be announced in due course."

A revised timeline and final bill for the two delayed CalMac vessels is expected by the end of October.