RANGERS directors Sandy and James Easdale have lodged a formal bid for crisis-hit Ferguson Shipbuilders.

Prospective buyers for the Port Glasgow business had until 5pm yesterday to submit offers to administrators.

It is understood there are "two serious bidders", one of which is from the Easdale brothers, who run McGills bus company.

The pair hope to save the last remaining commercial shipyard on the lower Clyde, which faces closure and the loss of 77 jobs, after bosses called in administrators last week.

Meanwhile, it is believed First Minister Alex Salmond will visit the yard today.

Mr Salmond revealed yesterday that he met with Ferguson shop stewards earlier in the week and reiterated the government's commitment to the yard and the workers.

He said there was a meeting of the multi agency task force set up by finance Secretary John Swinney on Monday.

Local MSP Duncan McNeill said he was encouraged by the number of bidders, which he said demonstrated a confidence in the workforce and the yard for the future.

Ownership of the land could well be central to any sale, with speculation that it does not belong to the debt-ridden business, but is owned by the Dunnet family which ran Ferguson's.

Sources say family members are not available until next week to meet any prospective buyer to discuss a land sale.

Finance Secretary John Swinney and union leaders have warned that a quick sale is needed to protect the future of shipbuilding for the Inverclyde community and to ensure the 70 skilled workers, sacked the day after administration, remain available to be rehired.

Blair Nimmo, joint administrator and head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland said there had been "significant interest" in the shipbuilder and he has held initial discussion with several parties.

Mr Nimmo said: "We have been encouraged by the level of initial interest in, and support shown for, Ferguson Shipbuilders."