EARLIER this week it emerged that Scottish Government ministers have put off, until at least next year, the awarding of a contract for a new fleet of small, lifeline ferries to serve many of Scotland’s island communities.

The Small Vessels Replacement Programme (SVRP) is supposed to replace much of Scotland’s ageing small vessels’ fleet within the next 10 years.

And that work is urgently needed – the oldest ferry is now 47 years old.

Long-suffering islanders, who just want a decent and affordable ferry service they can rely on, will be justifiably dismayed at this short-sighted move.

But it also has major impacts on Inverclyde. As Ferguson's own workers and the GMB union have long stressed, what is vital to secure the future of the yard and of shipbuilding in Inverclyde is a pipeline of future work.

These small vessels are that pipeline, and so this news comes as a huge blow, possibly plunging the very future of the yard itself in doubt.

Recent Ministry of Defence work has been a vote of confidence in the yard but it is vital that the Scottish Government now follow suit.

There have been many failings in relation to ferries fiasco over many years, and much blame to go around – but the workers of Ferguson Marine emerge blameless.

They have been badly let down by the failings of ministers, agencies and previous management. And now this Scottish Government has let them down yet again. They deserve better.

The facts are the previous Scottish Labour government built 10 ferries in seven years; the current government has managed just seven ferries in 15 years.

Their betrayal of our island communities is stark.

However, alongside the recent refusal by Scottish ministers to invest in the Ferguson Marine yard in order to secure its future, and the news revealed in the Tele this week that the Scottish Government has also delayed a key project to redevelop Gourock ferry terminal, their treatment of Inverclyde, its workforce and its economy frankly looks no less shoddy.