FERGUSON'S could be decimated to a 'skeleton' staff of around a hundred and not given any more large vessel contracts, a senior Inverclyde politician has warned today.

The entire shipyard is in danger of being drastically downsized under Scottish Government nationalisation in the wake of the £200m-plus CalMac ferries fiasco, according to Councillor Chris McEleny.

He believes that only small and minor government work will be put the Port Glasgow yard's way after heavily-delayed vessels MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 are finally completed.

Mr McEleny told the Telegraph: "The Scottish Government could secure the long term future of Ferguson's tomorrow by agreeing to directly award all future CalMac ferries to the yard.

"I asked the government to do this a year ago, but despite Scotland no longer being in the EU, ferry orders are still being placed on EU procurement rules — meaning that ferries for the Clyde could be built overseas."

It emerged over the weekend that the Port Glasgow-based Scottish Government ferries procurement quango Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) recently discussed the possibility of Ferguson's entering administration for what would be a third time.

Government-controlled and taxpayer-funded Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Holdings (FMPG) made a £100m loss in its first four months of operation.

Billionaire businessman Jim McColl rescued the shipyard from administration in 2014 and invested £25m in it, only for his Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) to be sunk after the original £97m contract with CMAL for the two ferries turned sour.

It is understood that questions over the future of yard under Scottish Government ownership have been discussed by CMAL chiefs during talks over continuing risks posed by the ongoing delay in delivering the two vessels.

CMAL has called for ministers to 'listen to our professional opinion'.

Cllr McEleny, who is on Unite the union's Scottish Shipbuilding and Aerospace Committee, said: "It is clear to many that CMAL doesn't want the CalMac fleet built at Ferguson's.

"Instead what we will end up with is a skeleton workforce at the yard that gets awarded tiny orders every now and again to keep up appearances."

Auditors for the state-owned yard have declared there are no guarantees Ferguson's will continue to operate in the future, but directors of FMPG have signed off recent financial statements on a 'going concern' basis.

Glen Sannox and Hull 802 are now more than five years behind schedule

It is understood that at a meeting involving CMAL and Transport Scotland chiefs an 'administration risk' for the yard was discussed.

The two parties are also said to have considered that progress on the vessels continued to be 'far below' what they would normally anticipate.

However, it was concluded that the risk of administration had 'decreased' because CMAL was no longer contractually involved with the year 'while the business remains under the control of the Scottish Government'.

A CMAL spokesperson said: "This was a historic risk, prior to administration, and because its status was changed at CMAL's audit and risk committee, it was noted at CMAL's April board meeting."

Councillor McEleny said: "My fears can be proven wrong by the Scottish Government tomorrow by one simple statement committing that Scotland's ferry fleet will be built in Port Glasgow.

"At a period when ferries are breaking down all over Scotland, the Scottish Government should be directly awarding the next 20 years of CalMac ferries to Ferguson's.

"This would secure hundreds of jobs and be the foundation to create thousands.

"Why are Inverclyde's representatives not standing up in parliament to demand this, as opposed to repeating government lines about commitment to completing the two ferries that are in the yard?"

The Scottish Government says it believes it was acting in the public interest in taking complete control of the yard in 2019 because it saved it from closure, rescued more than 300 jobs and ensured the ferries will be completed.

But former yard owner Mr McColl insisted in a recent exclusive interview with the Telegraph that nationalisation was not the only option.

An FMPG spokesperson said Ferguson Marine had been 100 per cent owned by Scottish ministers since December 2019 and 'there has been no risk of administration since that date'.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The government stands firm on its commitment to the vessels, the workforce and the yard.

"We continue to work with partners to minimise the impact of delays and ensure the vessels, which are critical to supporting the lifeline ferry network and the CalMac fleet, enter service as quickly as possible."