TIME FOR THE GREENS TO “GET REAL” AND DELIVER RENEWED FERRY LINK
FROM ROSYTH TO EUROPE SAY ALBA MPS
ALBA Party MPs Kenny MacAskill MP and Neale Hanvey MP have launched a discussion paper on the maritime opportunities for Scotland as they call on the Scottish Greens to “get real” in delivering the direct ferry link from Rosyth to Europe they promised before and during the Scottish Election in May. In their paper they contrast the lack of progress in Scotland with the decisive action already taken by the Republic of Ireland in establishing its own freight and passenger ferry services and routes between Ireland and mainland Europe. The Scottish Government continue to insist that any ferry route from Rosyth to Europe could only proceed on a “commercial basis”.
ALBA MP for East Lothian Kenny MacAskill said:
“The Scottish Greens called before and during the Election for the Rosyth direct ferry route to Europe to be reopened but since the Election have been conspicuous by their silence. The Greens are now in Government and their co-leader has a specific remit for transport so where is the action we were promised?
“The Green Manifesto gave a clear commitment they would: ‘work with Calmac to establish direct publicly owned services for freight and passengers to continental Europe’ but the Scottish Government they are now a part of insist that any direct ferry links to Europe can only proceed on a ‘commercial basis’.
“The environmental, economic and tourism benefits of re-opening the direct ferry link are clear – taking passengers and freight off the roads and the congested routes to the South of England while delivering jobs and trade to Scotland.
“So far all that Greens have delivered are ministerial seats in ministerial limos and the occasional electric bike. Greens must deliver on their commitment to reopen a direct ferry link from Rosyth to Europe or forever be known as the Scottish Greens who turned grey at the first whiff of power”.
Commenting on the Scottish Government’s continued failure to take action to re-establish the direct ferry link from Rosyth to Europe Neil Hanvey ALBA MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said:
“The Scottish Government’s insistence that any re-opening of the direct link from Rosyth to Europe can only proceed on a ‘commercial basis’ is economically illiterate and politically dishonest. The Scottish Government already uses Scottish taxes to subsidise ‘uneconomic’ bus and rail routes across the country so why not a direct ferry link to Europe? There was no ‘commercial’ barrier to public ownership of Prestwick airport or Ferguson’s shipyard so why the reticence with a direct ferry link to Europe?
“There has never been a better time for Scotland to develop its own direct ferry routes to the European mainland starting with the reopening of the Rosyth ferry port which provided Scotland’s only direct ferry link to Zeebrugge before it closed in 2010. The port infrastructure already exists and even signage still exists on the road network for it.
“What is required is an international joint venture with the Port of Amsterdam and/or Port of Zeebrugge. The optimal provision would be two services, benefiting both passengers and businesses. You could have two ferries carrying both passengers and freight to Amsterdam and one or two roll on roll off freight ferries to Zeebrugge. All possible through a simple tendering process.
“By refusing to act the Scottish Government are turning their backs on the people and communities of Rosyth and Fife. Our communities need increased jobs, trade and tourism – all of which would result from the reopening of the Rosyth to Europe route. The Greens were meant to make the Scottish Government ‘real’ but it is the Greens who need to ‘get real’ and deliver the direct ferry link from Rosyth to Europe which Rosyth, Fife and the wider Scottish economy so desperately needs.”
Commenting on their discussion paper Kenny MacAskill MP said:
“Independent Ireland may been 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.
“Scotland and Ireland are both island nations and for whom trade with the European continent is vital. Brexit saw preparations made by the Republic of Ireland with increased ferry capacity and new routes to the continent established.
“Scottish exporters are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of cost and efficiency of getting their goods to market. 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 to Scottish exporters.
“Existing difficulties in accessing markets were thus compounded by customs and other complexities. Recent fuel shortages, again largely related to Brexit, have further worsened the situation for Scottish exporters.
“Ireland has five designated maritime routes into and out of Ireland. These are Dublin/Cherbourg and Rosslare/Fishguard, Pembroke, Cherbourg and Bilbao. The five designated routes were established to counter covid restrictions and continue the movement of goods, including food and medical supplies in and out of Ireland”.
ALBA MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Neale Hanvey concluded:
“While UK transport policy has driven freight and passenger traffic to the South East of England to the detriment of businesses and travellers in Scotland and the North of England, Scotland has the opportunity to develop its own freight and passenger services.
“All that is required is the political will and the investment from the Scottish Government to make it happen.”
A Tale of Two Nations
Scotland and Ireland are both island nations and for whom trade with the European continent is vital. Brexit saw preparations made by the Republic of Ireland with increased ferry capacity and new routes to the continent established.
Meanwhile in Scotland where maritime transport is the responsibility of the Scottish Government no steps were taken to increase access, let alone restore the former service from Rosyth to Zeebrugge that had ceased in 2010.
Scottish exporters are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of cost and efficiency of getting their goods to market. 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 to Scottish exporters.
Existing difficulties in accessing markets were thus compounded by customs and other complexities. Recent fuel shortages, again largely related to Brexit, have further worsened the situation for Scottish exporters.
Ireland has five designated maritime routes into and out of Ireland. These are Dublin/Cherbourg and Rosslare/Fishguard, Pembroke, Cherbourg and Cork/Bilbao. The five designated routes were established to counter covid restrictions and continue the movement of goods, including food and medical supplies in and out of Ireland.
There are 10 ferry freight routes that connect the Republic of Ireland to France, UK, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. The most popular routes are Dublin to Rotterdam and Dublin to Zeebrugge, these crossings can vary from twice weekly to 4 crossings weekly.
Three main operators offer passenger ferry routes from the Republic of Ireland. Brittany Ferries offer weekly sailings from Cork to Roscoff and from Rosslare to Roscoff, Bilbao and Cherbourg. Irish Ferries offer 5 weekly sailings from Dublin to Cherbourg. The Stena Line offers one route from Rosslare to Cherbourg which it runs 3 times weekly.
What should be happening?
There’s a need for a maritime strategy for Scotland overall and that would link Scotland to its European markets as well as allowing for tourist travel in both directions. However, there’s an urgent need for Scots imports and exports to be able to access Europe. Action as in Ireland needs taken.
Reopening a route from Rosyth is the immediate step that should be taken, as the cost of fuel increases and driver shortages continue the cost-effective benefit of sea freight soars. Infrastructure is in place and even signage still exists on the road network for it. 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.
In the interim though the restoration of a service from Rosyth is essential and the Scottish Government must take act to provide a maritime link for Scottish exporters to Europe. EU Motorway of the Sea funds are no longer available to Scotland, though they would be available to a continental port to apply for to support a Scottish link. The UK Government has a duty to provide funds to support a route that previously would have been available to receive aid from Europe. The Scottish Government currently support road and rail transport in a variety of ways and with direct subsidies in respect of the latter. But if Irish Government can take action to protect its exporters, so must Scotland’s.