FERGUSON'S shipyard has taken on 'dozens' of new employees since the Scottish Government took control — with ministers now preparing a masterplan for its long term future.

The workforce has been scaled up to around the 400 mark from a previous level of 350 as bosses look to secure a 'pipeline' of constant work, likely to include rebuilding Caledonian MacBrayne's ageing ferry fleet.

But finance secretary Derek McKay — who visited Ferguson's staff again on Friday — told the Telegraph he is determined to ensure they win multiple contracts from the private sector as well.

Mr McKay said: "We know that CalMac needs new vessels and that they need to continue to refurbish existing vessels.

"We are looking at the options for the future but the other element is that, whether it's private sector work or public sector work I will ensure that Fergusons has a future.

"So whether it's a pipeline of public vessels or private vessels, I'm looking at the model of governance of the yard."

Asked when the two existing CalMac ferries at the yard would be complete, the minister said: "I can't give that detail yet because I'm waiting on a report for the vessels currently under construction.

"Of course there's other vessels under construction as well so I'm waiting on a report about the timescale and a cost appraisal."

Mr McKay added: "As well as that I'm looking at the future pipeline of work.

"Since we've taken control of the yard employment numbers are going up and my intention is to continue scaling up the yard."

The minister said: "The alternative was for the Government to walk away, and if we'd walked away I don't think the yard would have had a future and it would have been money down the drain in terms of what we'd invested previously.

"But pledging our support for the yard and taking it into public control and ownership is a vote of confidence in the skilled trades men and women at the yard.

"I'm not ideological about the ownership of the yard.

"I am absolutely pragmatic about what gives the staff there jobs into the future and to ensure that commercial shipbuilding continues on the Clyde, as a son of the Clyde myself.

"I'm further reinforcing that the yard has a future by being here."

Inverclyde SNP leader Chris McEleny said: "As we know we have an ageing CalMac fleet, with the ability to give the yard 20 years of guaranteed work to build a new modern fleet of vessels.

"We can provide a strong foundation to re-industrialise the entire lower Clyde on the back of that guarantee.

"This yard and it’s hard working staff has the potential to grow to create at least 800 jobs in the near future."