AN SNP councillor has questioned his party's Scottish Government over future orders for Ferguson Marine after local ferry firm CalMac was overlooked for work.

Chris McEleny is aggrieved that a £450 million six-year deal for Northern Isles routes was awarded to private firm Serco instead of the operator based in his Gourock constituency.

The Inverclyde Council SNP group leader believes this could have a knock-on effect for the nationalised Ferguson's shipyard in Port Glasgow.

The Tele told on Monday how CalMac, also owned by the Scottish Government, dropped legal action against ministers over the Northern Isles contract.

Disappointed bosses said they beat Serco 'on price' for the work - something ministers have not disputed, saying the tendering process was weighted two-thirds towards cost and a third based on quality.

Councillor McEleny said: "I'm disappointed our publicly-owned ferry company won't be running publicly-funded northern ferry routes.

"It is an entirely inconsistent approach.

"Why bother getting a public rail bid together when the decision is made to award public ferries to a private company over our own CalMac ferries?

"If we accept the argument that Serco can be awarded a £1/2 billion contract over CalMac, what's stopping ferry contracts going outwith Scotland over Ferguson's on the same logic?"

Public services contractor Serco, which has a marine base in Greenock has been in charge of Northern Isles ferries since 2012 and will formally take on the new six-year extension by the end of next month.

Scottish Government officials did not comment on Cllr McEleny's theory surrounding CalMac and Ferguson's, but say they are right behind the Port shipbuilder.

A spokesperson said: "We have saved the yard from closure securing the immediate future of the yard and are fully committed to delivering a sustainable future for Ferguson Marine, and commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde.

"A strategy for future work will be crucial to the long-term viability of the yard and we are considering the best approach."

The government stepped in to save Ferguson's and around 300 jobs in August last year after the business went into administration as a result of a calamitous £97 million public contract to build two new CalMac ferries, which will be delivered between three and four years late and cost double the original price.

The nationalisation of the yard was finalised in December last year.