ALEX Salmond declared that Inverclyde can become a world-leading shipbuilding and re-industrialised powerhouse during a campaign visit to the district yesterday.

The Alba Party leader pledged to strive to harness the potential of Ferguson's shipyard and Inchgreen Dry Dock with a view to creating thousands of skilled jobs.

Mr Salmond — in Greenock to support local candidate Chris McEleny — also slammed the bosses of a Scottish Government, Port Glasgow-based procurement quango embroiled in the Ferguson's ferries fiasco.

He said that Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) was 'the winter on Inverclyde's pastures' and that the body, which is also in charge of Scotland's ferries fleet and harbours, must be abolished.

In an exclusive Tele interview during his campaign trail stop in Greenock, the former first minister said: "When my government stepped in to save Ferguson's in 2014 it was done not just with the objective of saving jobs but with the intention of expanding the shipyard.

"It was to be an expansion of the facilities, and Inchgreen — which was sold for a pound — is a good example of that.

"Alba would abolish CMAL.

"Their activities have wrecked the contract for the boats, so CMAL has failed the test.

"There should be a long term contract to replenish the [Caledonian MacBrayne] fleet and I'm not talking about two ferries, I'm talking about 20 or 30 over a period of time.

"That contract should be placed with Ferguson's as the lead yard to a consistent design, a design that looks to the future in terms of environmental sensitivity but a consistent design for CalMac ferries, and Ferguson's should be the hub of the ferry building."

Mr Salmond — who was also joined yesterday by other west Scotland Alba candidates Caroline McAllister, Ellen McMaster and Delia Henry — accused Nicola Sturgeon's government of doing 'nothing' to unleash Inverclyde's industrial potential.

In a rallying call for more 'political determination' he said: "If the current owners of Inchgreen, Peel, won't develop it as they promised it should be taken into public ownership.

"You can't have facilities such as these going to waste — these are unparalleled anywhere in the world.

"All you have to do is match and marry the facilities and the resources to the workers and you've got the prospect of what was always [former Ferguson's owner] Jim McColl's dream to turn a shipyard with a few hundred workers into a thriving centre and hub with thousands of workers.

"Now, that can be done but it takes some political determination, and I've seen nothing in the last five years which indicates that political determination.

"I promise you that Alba will provide it.

"When we stepped in at Ferguson's in 2014 it was only the start of the process, and that's what was so exciting about it.

"It's a great pity that vision has been lost, but it's not lost forever.

"It's still there, the facilities are still there, the deep water is still there and Inchgreen is still there.

"People know how committed I am to make a success of this and I promise it will be one of Alba's great industrial priorities because re-industrialisation of the River Clyde is part of the process of re-industrialising Scotland."

Voters go the polls next Thursday.