JOBS at a Greenock maritime firm which lost out on £25m worth of CalMac ferry maintenance work will become 'precarious' if two other contracts also go elsewhere, the leader of Inverclyde Council has warned.

Stephen McCabe has written directly to the Scottish Government's economy and fair work secretary Fiona Hyslop urging a 'rapid response' to protect the Garvel dry dock-based Dales Marine, which lost out to English rivals Cammell Laird in the race to secure work on six government-owned vessels.

A further £29m worth of CalMac refit work is currently up for grabs and Mr McCabe says it is now essential to avoid the loss of a 'significant' employer in the district.

In his letter to Ms Hyslop the council leader states: "The award of contract, compliant with European legislation is not something that this council would seek to influence.

"We are concerned, however, following discussion with Dales Marine, who are based in Inverclyde, that they should lose out to Cammell Laird on Lots 2 and 3, their position will become precarious.

"Dales Marine like many companies has been badly affected by Covid.

"I would like to commence early discussions with Scottish Government officials on a rapid response rescue package should Dales Marine be unsuccessful with Lots 2 and 3.

"I believe it is important we move quickly to prevent the potential loss of a significant local employer."

Meanwhile, Inverclyde's MSP has written to Caledonian MacBrayne to press the case for Dales Marine, who recently carried out urgent remedial work to the firm's heavily delayed Glen Sannox ferry.

Stuart McMillan, along with SNP colleague Ronnie Cowan MP, says the Scottish Government-owned ferry operator will provide 'feedback' to Dales.

Mr McMillan said: "I am disappointed that Dales Marine, with a yard right here in Inverclyde, did not win the first of four maintenance contracts.

"Both Ronnie Cowan and I wrote to CalMac supporting Dales.

"There is no doubt that it makes absolute sense for Dales to take on this contract and that is what everyone locally would have wanted.

"Both Ronnie and I were assured that all unsuccessful bidders will be provided with feedback on their bid and I hope this will help Dales secure remaining contracts."

Mr McMillan added: "I very much understand the argument that ferries servicing the west of Scotland should be serviced on the Clyde, however, if we follow that argument through, that would surely mean Inverclyde-based companies should not be awarded contracts outside of Inverclyde or Scottish companies should not be awarded contracts outside of Scotland.

"Bringing new work and maintaining existing employment is even more crucial locally with the effects of Covid on our economy.

"CalMac must ensure Dales have feedback to ensure they have the best shot at winning future contracts."