Nicola Sturgeon “lied” when she claimed Ferguson Marine would have been forced to shut without Scottish Government ferry contracts, according to business tycoon Jim McColl.
The entrepreneur denied the Port Glasgow shipyard would have folded had they not been chosen by SNP ministers to build two new boats in 2015.
The first minister said up to 400 workers would have been left without a job if a “different decision” had been made.
But Mr McColl said Ferguson’s only had around 150 employees at the time, and insisted the shipyard was still completing “outstanding work”.
The two vessels intended to serve Scotland’s island communities were originally intended to be built by 2018.
But construction has been mired with delays, with the ferries still not finished four years later.
The Scottish Government stepped in and nationalised Ferguson’s in 2019 to stop the firm from going under.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “Had a different decision been taken the shipyard at Ferguson’s would almost certainly have closed and the 400 people who are currently employed there would not be in that employment.
“At every point the government has acted in a way to protect jobs. Commercial shipbuilding exists on the Clyde because of the decisions the government has taken.”
‘That’s a lie’
But on Tuesday Mr McColl said: “That’s a lie. At the time there were 150 employees.”
He added: “I think she was a bit rattled in the interview and she mixed it up with the statement they make about saving the yard. It’s not true.
“The yard had outstanding work. It was still working on the ferry Katrina which wasn’t launched until 2016.
“It also had additional construction work. There was no danger of the yard going under at that time. That was a slip by the first minister in the interview.”
Mr McColl previously denied he had signed off on the agreement, but on Tuesday admitted this was incorrect.
The businessman once backed independence and had a strong relationship with the SNP.
He has since become a vocal critic of the SNP government due to the ferry debacle.
He claimed the deal was approved for political purposes and accused the first minister of a “propaganda exercise”.
There is a lack of clarity about who in the Scottish Government approved the contract with some blame shifted to disgraced ex-minister Derek Mackay.
No key documentation appears to exist showing the final decision to award Ferguson Marine the contract.
It was alleged they may have broken the law over missing paperwork.
The first minister was forced to deny a cover-up, while Scotland’s auditor general said it was “frustrating” that he could not review all evidence before publishing a report.
Ms Sturgeon again said yesterday it was “deeply regrettable” that the ships had not been built on time.
Today the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary said he “agreed 100%” that all key decisions should be recorded.
John Paul Marks added that he believed recommendations given by Audit Scotland were correct.
Responding to Labour’s Daniel Johnson at the Holyrood finance committee, he said: “This needs to be robust, consistent, professional and assured.”