EARLIER this week I joined a summit organised by the GMB Scotland trade union at Port Glasgow Town Hall to discuss the future of Ferguson Marine.

I have visited the yard to meet with the workforce a number of times, most recently with Scottish Labour’s new transport spokesperson Alex Rowley MSP.

The yard has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, but every time I have met the workforce, I have never failed to be impressed by their dedication and skills.

There is a lot of blame to go round for the ferries fiasco, ministers, agencies and previous management, but the one group of people that are blameless, are the workforce who have been left fixing problems they didn't create.

Indeed, if the warnings of GMB reps had been listened to earlier, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now.

The Scottish Government must listen to them now.

It goes without saying that the delayed and over-budget 801 and 802 ferries need completed urgently, but we also need a credible and robust plan for what comes next.

Going forward, we need to secure a positive future for Ferguson and give the yard a fresh start. I have three key points.

Firstly, the yard shouldn’t be sold off. Talk of this is hugely distracting for the workforce. This is the government’s mess and they should clear it up.

Secondly, I have seen for myself the need for investment in facilities at the yard to improve efficiencies and help win future work.

Finally, with an ageing CalMac fleet, it’s clear we need to see a national ferry building programme supporting jobs on the Lower Clyde.

Recent MOD work from BAE systems is a vote of confidence in the workforce. The Scottish Government should follow suit by directly awarding the yard work for smaller, simpler and standardised vessels with robust oversight in place.

This is work that can easily be done at Ferguson Marine because it’s done it before.

It will help provide islanders with the ferries they need and help secure a positive future for the yard.