The over £580 million of investment to support and improve Scotland’s ferry services that was announced as part of our wider five-year infrastructure investment plan in February 2021 includes £306 million for improvements to piers and harbours and incorporates the Ardrossan and Skye triangle infrastructure projects. The majority of that investment is driven by the replacement of life-expired infrastructure and supports the delivery of the two new vessels and future vessels, which will enable increased flexibility across the ferry network.
In order for the Glen Sannox to use Ardrossan, the port needs to be upgraded, but the process has been stuck for four years—even though a ministerial task force has been in existence for four years, the scheme has still not gone out to tender. That process will take six months, because the overall package of funding is yet to be agreed. Once work starts, it will take another two years. Why is the project still marooned?
The Ardrossan project has faced a number of challenges in the planning and design phase, notwithstanding the legal and commercial discussions between the statutory harbour authority, Peel Ports Group, and Transport Scotland, which continue. It is welcome that the project is now entering the tender stage, as was confirmed at the recent Ardrossan task force meeting on 23 February this year, and we remain committed to finding a solution at Ardrossan that can deliver in a cost-effective way and meet the needs of all the partners involved.
Does the minister agree that the reason that the upgrading of Ardrossan harbour has dragged on for years is the difficult on-going negotiations with Peel Ports, which he has just touched on, and that such a scenario would not exist if the Tories had not privatised Clydeport, which ultimately led to the Scottish Government having to deal with a company for which the bottom line is paramount?
The member makes a very interesting observation. It is absolutely the case, as I mentioned in my initial answer, that we are committed to finding a solution at Ardrossan, but there have been significant delays, and the legal and commercial discussions with Peel Ports have taken a considerable amount of time.
However, as I said, we are happy that the project is now entering the tender stage and is moving forward.
The alternative arrangements that will be in place while Uig harbour is adapted will mean that there will be a third less freight capacity for Uist. That is unacceptable, especially as the closure will last for six months. It will impact on everybody on those islands and will put businesses in jeopardy.
Will the minister ensure that there will be no decrease in freight capacity during the closure period? Will he do everything in his power to speed up the timeframe for the works?
As I indicated in my earlier answers, the Scottish Government is investing significant sums to support the upgrading and improvement of infrastructure across Scotland’s ports. In relation to the specific question that the member raises, I will ensure that my colleague the Minister for Transport responds to her with the detail that she has requested.