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To ask the Scottish Executive, in light of the threat of closure of the Vestas factory at
Consultants who were commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are currently undertaking a Scottish transport appraisal guidance appraisal of the proposed Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service. It is anticipated that the completed STAG appraisal will be delivered shortly. When the final report becomes available, ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will consider the costs and benefits that are associated with the proposed service and will reach a decision about the way forward.
We expect the STAG appraisal to consider all the possible service options and to include an analysis of the option of extending the service to Ayrshire. None of the earlier analyses considered that matter in any detail. The assessment of the Ayrshire leg is necessary if we are to consider whether such an extension of the service would add value to the proposed Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service.
Will the minister acknowledge that even without the loss of jobs at Vestas the Kintyre and Campbeltown economy is under severe pressure and desperately needs new investment? Will he also acknowledge that although we all want the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service to resume as soon as possible, a ferry service from Campbeltown to mainland Ayrshire would mean that businesses and potential new businesses in Campbeltown could get their goods to major new markets, which would be crucial? Will he ask his officials to consider the option seriously?
We place the highest value on ensuring that Kintyre has the economic opportunities that it requires. That is why we are considering the Campbeltown to Ballycastle route and why we included in that consideration the option of the extension of the service to Ayrshire. That is an entirely new proposal, which the Government has not considered before. We certainly take the prospect seriously, and I hope to have something more concrete to say on the matter in the not-too-distant future.
Does the minister recall that previous assessments of the viability of ferry routes to and from Campbeltown took into account the advantages of the Vestas manufacturing facility there and the prospects for passenger and commercial traffic that arose from that? What assessment has he made of the potential impact on the STAG assessment of routes of the closure of the Vestas factory? What indication has Vestas given of the importance of those routes to the decision-making process in which it is involved?
It is clear that events in Campbeltown will affect consideration of the STAG appraisal. If the Vestas factory is to close, that reinforces the case for our considering every opportunity that we can find to create an economic future for Campbeltown and the Mull of Kintyre. I assure the member that that is our priority.
John Scott is correct to refer to discussions between Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister and our First Minister and me some months ago. We must work with administrations on the other side of the channel. We must talk to local authorities, such as Moyle District Council in Northern Ireland, which is engaged in the issue. All the relevant parties are engaged. Serious consideration is also being given to a potential link between Campbeltown and Ayrshire.