The BBC reported Ferguson Marine, the Port Glasgow shipyard that won the contract to build the ferries for the CalMac fleet, was given sight of a more than 400-page document setting out the technical requirements for the vessels.
The shipyard was also allowed to change its design during the tendering process, making its pitch almost £10 million cheaper.
There was also a confidential meeting between the yard and the Scottish Government’s ferry procurement body Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) – a courtesy not extended to other bidders in the process.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he has “concerns” over possible preferential treatment in the awarding of a contract for two over-budget and late ferries.
In an interview with the BBC for a documentary set to air on Tuesday, Mr Swinney said: “These issues have got to be looked into further as a result of what you’ve put to me today.
“I listen to this material in good faith – it’s not been put to me in the past but I do assure you that it is material that I take seriously, about which I have concerns which raises fundamental issues for me about the fairness and the appropriateness of the tendering process and I have to be satisfied that those issues are properly looked at.”
Also speaking to the BBC documentary, Jim McColl – the former owner of the yard – said the document put Ferguson Marine in a “very strong position” to win the tender.
The procurement and building of the vessels has been an ongoing issue in recent years and the subject of two parliamentary inquiries, one of which is ongoing, and a report by the Auditor General.
The yard was pulled out of administration by the Scottish Government and nationalised in 2019, but a series of issues with the building of the vessels were soon identified that resulted in delays and overspends.
The Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed hull 802 are expected to be completed next year, with the cost some two-and-a-half times the initial £97 million.
Particular focus has fallen on the failure of Ferguson Marine to offer a builder’s refund guarantee, which would have protected public money once construction ran into problems.
It was not until after the yard had been made the preferred bidder in the tendering process that its inability to offer the guarantee came to light.