The GMB union said workers were told they were being made redundant with immediate effect when they turned up for work this morning at the yard in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde. Only seven workers will be retained as a skeleton staff while the receivers try to find a buyer.
The announcement provoked a powerful attack from a senior union official against the First Minister,
Jim Moohan, chairman of the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions (CSEU) in Scotland and GMB Scotland senior organiser, said that there had been concerns for some time about the amount of work on the yard's books and that more should have been done to safeguard the yard's future.
He said: "This is the end of commercial shipbuilding in Scotland. The yard has struggled for work for a number of years now and the Scottish government gave us an assurance that the work would be there and the yard would survive.
"There was a personal commitment from the First Minister that the workforce would be protected and that work would remain. This is a scandal and Alex Salmond should deliver a personal apology to each and every one of these men today."
GMB official Alex Logan said staff were "shocked and stunned" to lose their jobs at a yard that dates back almost 200 years and in a community on the Lower Clyde once famed for its shipbuilding industry.
The yard's doors were locked this morning and workers were sent home to break the news to their families, with some said to be in tears.
One man said: "Just spoken to a visibly shaken 21-year-old apprentice worried for their future and he says the announcement was a 'bombshell'."
Another man took to social media to say: "Last of the lower Clyde shipyard. 20-odd years of my father's life, gone."
Blair Nimmo and Tony Friar of KPMG have been appointed as joint administrators of Ferguson Shipbuilders.
A statement from them read: "The group has experienced significant cash flow pressure in recent months and the lack of financial strength has hindered its ability to secure new vessel contracts from its core customer base. Recent attempts to secure investment into the business have proved unsuccessful."
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “The loss of any jobs in Port Glasgow is a devastating blow and we will work closely with the administrator to deliver an integrated service to those losing their jobs.
“We will also convene a task force which will aim to secure new opportunities for this commercial shipyard on the Clyde. I have spoken to the Leader of the Council and we have agreed to work together on the task force to secure these opportunities. I will visit Port Glasgow on Monday to start this process.
“The Scottish Government’s initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE), is already engaged and working with the administrators to provide as much support as possible to affected employees.
“The yard facilities, along with the expertise and experience of the workforce, are significant assets. The Scottish Government and partners have a strong track record of engagement in the local area to secure employment.
"Over the past two and a half years we has supported Ferguson Shipbuilders with contracts worth more than £20 million for two new hybrid ferries.
"We will do everything we can to promote a strong future for commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde and remain hopeful that a new owner can be found to continue the proud tradition and innovative engineering of Ferguson Shipbuilders.”
BAE's yards at Scotstoun and Govan further up the Clyde are still open but only deal with military orders.