Speaking at First Ministers’ Questions on Thursday, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said that by not putting state-rescued Ferguson Marine on the shortlist for the contract, she was putting Scottish jobs at risk.
He also accused her of hypocrisy, citing a comment she made in Parliament in 2005, when she told then-first minister Jack McConnell that a contract should go to Ferguson in Port Glasgow rather than to a Polish firm.
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government-controlled Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), which owns Scotland’s ferry fleet, invited four overseas companies to bid for a £100 million contract to build two new ferries to serve Islay.
The successful bids were from Damen Shipyard in Romania, Remontowa Shipbuilding in Poland, and Turkish shipyards Sefine Denizcilik Tersanecilik Turizm and Cemre Marin Endustri.
Ferguson Marine, which was taken into public ownership by the Scottish Government in 2019 to avoid its collapse, bid for the contract through the initial pre-qualification questionnaire process, but failed to make the shortlist.
Mr Sarwar said: "Scotland’s ancient CalMac fleet urgently needs to be replaced and there are jobs across our country that need to be protected.
"But Nicola Sturgeon has somehow managed a system where a Scottish yard, supporting Scottish jobs and owned by the Scottish Government failed to even make the shortlist to build ferries for Scotland. That a Scottish Government-owned company can’t win a Scottish Government contract to build ships is a national scandal that is now an international humiliation.
"This government has no strategy to expand services, no fleet to meet Scotland’s needs and no plan to fix the problem.”
He added: "But it isn't just ferries which highlight the failure of the Scottish Government. We've seen them create jobs for China providing steel for the Queensferry Crossing, jobs for Indonesia supplying wind turbines. And now jobs for Turkey, Romania or Poland to provide our ferries.
"It is time for the First Minister to – in her own words – 'come down on the side of a Scottish industry, a Scottish shipyard and Scottish jobs'. Because the harsh reality is the only thing being manufactured in SNP Scotland is grievance."
Ms Sturgeon said that procurement process was bound by rules and regulations.
She said: “Let's not lose sight of the fact that this government has protected shipbuilding jobs here in Scotland, because without the intervention of this government, Ferguson's would not still be open. It would not still be operational and there are hundreds of people currently employed at Ferguson's who would not be employed.”
“Ferguson’s is on a journey back to recovery. Its focus right now, as indeed the opposition have regularly called for it to be, is making sure that the two ferries that are currently delayed are completed, and then the work that is underway at Ferguson’s I hope will equip Ferguson’s to compete for new orders and new contracts in the future.”