‘Nearly 5 years to the day’ was the comment put to me by a yard employee after the owners of Ferguson Marine served notice of the intent to put the business into administration two weeks ago.
I remember that day in 2014 and was absolutely shocked, but nowhere near as shocked as the workforce and their families and friends – who were all understandably concerned about the future of the last commercial shipyard on the Clyde.
Five years later, the Scottish Government has stepped in to take Ferguson Marine under public control, with a view to full public ownership – securing a future for the yard, and saving the 300 jobs which were at stake.
Despite best efforts, this proved to be the only option to prevent the loss of those jobs and ensure that ferries for the Clyde and Hebrides service can be completed.
On Friday, Derek Mackay met with the excellent workforce and stressed the Scottish Government’s commitment to achieving the best possible outcome for the yard – which I welcomed as the local MSP.
Everybody in Port Glasgow recognises how important our yard is for shipbuilding. It supports jobs and an excellent apprenticeship programme, and contributes to the supply chain and economy as a whole.
Ferguson’s is a major employer and has a long history in my constituency of Greenock and Inverclyde.
The yard matters to thousands of people in the area, including me - as I grew up in the town, went to school there and worked in Port Glasgow. The pride we all have for the yard is immeasurable.
In fact, saving Ferguson’s was personal to me in more ways than one. My father worked in the yard before he passed away suddenly in 2001. My family and I will never forget the kindness of the workforce to our family at that time. I was proud of him and I want the next generation to have that sense of pride as they see the ship their parent helped create sail into the water on launch day. I vowed that if I ever had the opportunity to try and help repay those workers - some of whom still work at the yard - then I would do all I could to help.
The loss of 300 jobs would have been absolutely devastating to my constituency. Now, the skilled workforce can continue delivering the world-class ships that the yard is known for. Of course, the relief felt by the workers and their families is palpable.
Ferguson’s shipyard matters to Scotland. As a country surrounded by water and islands - we fundamentally need vessels, and if we don’t build them, they will be built elsewhere. To keep our proud tradition of shipbuilding alive the yard must stay open long-term.
The action taken by Derek Mackay and the Scottish Government is a viable and sustainable solution for the yard, and the workforce. The alternative was for the government to stand aside while the company went into administration, resulting in the jobs being lost and the vessels not being completed.
The immediate priority must be to ensure the completion of the two ferries under construction at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer, and protecting the medium and long-term future of shipbuilding at the site.
The Scottish Government’s central focus on keeping the workforce in jobs, getting the ferries built and operational and ensuring the yard has a future is one I hope everyone can get behind. Everyone wants the yard to be a successful business, and I am reassured that the government is so focussed on a future for the yard and the workforce.
As always, I remain positive that there is a bright future ahead for the yard, and for shipbuilding on the lower Clyde.
I am now looking forward to working closely and engaging with the new management team, the Scottish Government, and trade unions – as well as suppliers and customers.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m pleased that with the help of the skilled workforce, we have secured the future of Ferguson shipyard.
I truly believe that Ferguson’s yard can continue to build world-class ships, and has an extremely successful future ahead.