A tycoon has called for two controversial CalMac ferries dogged by soaring costs and delays to be scrapped and started again.

Businessman Jim McColl blasted the Scottish government’s plan to spend at least £110m on the part-finished ferries .

He was in charge of the Ferguson shipyard where the ferries were being built before it collapsed and was nationalised. Management of the yard has been sharply criticised in a new government report.

The ferries were being constructed at Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow to replace old ferries on Clyde and Hebridean routes operated by CalMac. They are more than a year overdue.

Mr McColl said: “You’d be better building from scratch and to a design that’s more suited to what’s needed. They could probably build three smaller vessels for less than £100m and it would give them more flexibility.”

The Glen Sannox ferry is currently under construction at the yard

Speaking to the BBC, the former chairman of Ferguson Marine Engineering said he was taking legal advice on whether the Scottish government’s attack on his management was defamatory.

He said the report into the ferry fiasco, drawn up for the government after it took ownership of the yard, was “outrageous” and a “snow job” to cover up the role of the government agency involved in procuring the ferries.

Mr McColl said Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, which required numerous design changes, was the key reason why the budget and timetable went out of control.

The ship design uses a novel hybrid power system, using marine diesel for getting in and out of ports, and liquefied natural gas while at sea. The need for new safety certificates also caused delays.

Mr McColl challenged the Scottish government’s plan to continue building the two ships, after months of neglect. One has been moored at the quayside and the other sits on the slipway at the Port Glasgow yard.

That would effectively write off more than £80m already spent on them, while more than £45m in loans from the Scottish government have been written off.

The businessman said some materials could be used in new hulls, but that it would be better value for taxpayer money to start building again, to a simpler design. He suggested three smaller ferries could be built for the same original £97m budget.

The report published this week was strongly critical of the management of Ferguson Marine while Mr McColl was chairman, saying it lacked project and financial controls.

The report went on to estimate a £13m bill for remedial work on the hulls taking seven months, including removal of rust and a dry dock inspection of the first ferry’s hull. There would then be a £95m bill to complete the vessels.

The ships were due to be delivered in summer 2018, but the first one, the Glen Sannox, is now scheduled for delivery by December 2021 and the second, known as Vessel 802, by October 2022.

Ferguson is the last commercial shipyard left on the River Clyde

Criticism of his management team was “outrageous and unacceptable - the team selected were some of the best in the UK, and head and shoulders above those in there now. I’ve asked if we can sue them for defamation of character”.

He added: “There needs to be an inquiry. The way they’ve handled this is incompetent”.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Our efforts saved Ferguson Marine from closure, saving over 300 jobs, ensured that the two vessels under construction will be completed, and secured a future for the yard.

“Scottish ministers are committed to transparency on these issues. We have kept parliament informed of progress and have proactively published information on our website.

“We welcome the opportunity to respond to any additional inquiries that the committee might wish to raise.”

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