The policy review, looking at the future procurement of Scottish Government ferry contracts, will be extended to further consider the full impact of EU state aid rules.
The additional work will focus on whether the direct award of a contract would comply with the complex regulations governing state aid, whilst also satisfying the so called “Teckal exemption”.
The policy review was originally planned to finish in the autumn, but will now likely go beyond that period.
Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf said: “Since the policy review was launched in February, my officials have carried out extensive engagement with the European Commission and key stakeholders across our ferry networks.
“This work has led to the conclusion that a direct award to a body that is compliant with the Teckal exemption would be allowed under EU legislation. However, before we can consider making a direct award, we also need to make sure it would comply with complex state aid rules.
“This will require further engagement with the Commission and will almost certainly extend the timeline for the policy review beyond the autumn period. We will publish a report on progress to date in the autumn and aim to complete the full review process as soon as possible.
“It is the Scottish Government’s preference to make a direct award to an in-house provider, but it’s important that the outcome of this review is not prejudged.
“This extension means we will have to further consider the implications for the next contracts for the Gourock-Dunoon and Northern Isles ferry services, and we will lay out the way forward for both of these contracts in due course.
“Our ferry services are iconic transport links that play a vital role for our island economies. Making sure they continue to support the communities they serve, as well as delivering best value for taxpayer’s money, will always remain at the heart of our ferry operations.”