East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill calls on Scottish Government to subsidise new ferry services to continent
The Scottish Government should offer a subsidy to get ferries sailing again between Rosyth and Europe, says East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill.
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The former Justice Secretary, now an Alba MP, says Brexit and the lorry driver shortage have boosted the case for ferries.
And he is calling for Scotland to develop a maritime strategy to create direct links to its European markets and encourage tourist travel in both directions.
Mr MacAskill claims Ireland took action ahead of Brexit to increase ferry capacity and establish new routes while Scotland did nothing.
“Independent Ireland may be on the geographical periphery of Europe but that has not held her back when it comes to exploiting the trade and tourism opportunities that exist. Ireland has forged ahead establishing many direct connections through ferry routes to the European mainland while Scotland has none."
A ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge was launched in 2002 but it was halted for passengers in 2010 and for freight in 2018.
Mr MacAskill said Scotland and Ireland were both island nations for whom trade with the European continent was vital, but Scottish exporters were at a disadvantage.
"The lack of short sea shipping routes connecting Scotland with mainland Europe results in unnecessary lorry loads of goods travelling to English ports for onward shipment, adding extra expense and time."
He said Ireland now had five designated maritime routes – Dublin to Cherbourg and Rosslare to Fishguard, Pembroke, Cherbourg and Bilbao.
But he said the Scottish Government must be prepared to offer incentives to establish ferry routes to the continent.
"The Scottish Government position is it needs to be commercial,” he said.
"But if you took that view you wouldn't have a railway line other than Edinburgh-Glasgow. You have to provide some cash.
"We subsidise railways, we build roads, we have to do the same with ferry links.
"If Rosyth and Zeebrugge want a ferry the government needs to go to shipping companies and say 'How much will you do it for? We will give a subsidy'.
"Sooner or later it will then take off. The more you do the more economical it will become."
He said there had been EU funding through the Motorway of the Seas scheme, which he assumed the UK Government now planned to replicate, but he had been unable to get any answers about it.
“Although the UK is at fault for not creating a fund, the Scottish Government has to be more hands on – they have got to want to deliver this, they have got to go out and support ferries.
“Reopening a route from Rosyth is the immediate step that should be taken. Supporting the restoration of a service or services to Europe is therefore essential. Longer term consideration should be given to other options such as Cockenzie which has an existing rail connection, as well as other ports.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are supportive of new direct ferry services linking Scotland to Europe, but they need to be delivered on a commercial basis.
“Exporting delays are down to issues that we have warned about for many years, and the consequences of the Brexit deal are now starting to be felt across the country.”