A state-run ferry body has disputed a billionaire’s claim that Nicola Sturgeon bounced him into a price to build two new vessels.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) said Jim McColl’s statement that the £97m figure was announced before it had been agreed was “inaccurate”.

McColl rescued the Ferguson shipyard on the Clyde in 2014, after which his firm was awarded the £97m ferries contract.

However, a bitter fallout between Ferguson Marine and CMAL, which placed the order, led to delays and cost overruns.

Ferguson Marine collapsed into administration last year, before being taken over by the Scottish government.

The ferries may end up costing twice as much to build and the row has triggered a war of words between McColl and the Government.

Giving evidence to a Holyrood committee this month, McColl claimed his firm had initially been looking for £107m, but CMAL tried to negotiate a lower price.

He told MSPs: “Before we came to any agreement, the First Minister announced that we had been selected as preferred bidder and that the price was £97 million, or £96.8 million.

“CMAL then came back to us and said that it had been announced by the First Minister, so we would just have to accept it, and that it was not going to negotiate with us on the foreign exchange aspect.”

He continued: “The contract was announced at £97 million and we were told that, because it had been publicly announced, we were stuck with it. We then set to work on how we could save it.”

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But in a letter to a Holyrood committee, CMAL chief executive Kevin Hobbs rejected McColl’s account:

“I feel it is necessary to bring the attention of the Committee inaccurate information that has been heard in recent oral evidence.

“It was stated that the First Minister had announced the contract price before it was agreed.

“However, pre-contract documentation shows that Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FEMAL) offered a price of £48.5m per vessel on 28 August 2015, several days before the news release announcement on 31 August 2015.”

McColl has since said it would be better building the ferries from “scratch”.

Although the tycoon has clashed with the Scottish Government, he remains a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Ferguson Marine did not comment.