Campbeltown - Ballycastle ferry service
Fresh moves to re-establish a ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle took a step forward today when Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson announced to Parliament that a new economic appraisal of the route is to be undertaken.
Following talks with his Northern Ireland counterpart Nigel Dodds MP, Mr Stevenson said that Ministers have agreed to jointly fund work into the case for restoring the service using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) system.
The Transport Minister said:
"After years of no movement on a Campbeltown-Ballycastle service, I am delighted to announce that I have agreed with Northern Ireland Minister Nigel Dodds to carry out a fresh economic appraisal of the route.
"Communities on both sides of the water have campaigned long and hard for the reinstatement of this service, believing it would bring economic and tourism benefits to the local communities involved and Scotland more widely.
"This appraisal will examine that case.
"Both Governments are in agreement that the previous appraisals carried out in 2000-01 are now too old to be of any practical use in assessing the case for reintroducing the service, or estimating the associated costs and benefits involved. A new appraisal now will allow us to re-examine the economic viability of the route.
"The STAG appraisal will be completed this summer, and at that stage, we will agree with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive, the next steps to be taken.
"The Scottish Government has set aside funding within the budget announced by John Swinney last month for a Campbeltown - Ballycastle ferry service, and we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can to progress this for the local communities involved."
The STAG appraisal of a Campbeltown-Ballycastle ferry service will be completed by summer 2008.
During the First Minister's visits to Belfast on 18/19 June, and at the British Irish Council on 16 July, Northern Ireland Ministers indicated their willingness to work with the Scottish Government to consider ways in which the project might be taken forward. The Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to examine the case for restoring the ferry service.
Since then officials from both administrations have discussed joint working arrangements for taking the project forward. The Transport Minister has discussed with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Nigel Dodds MLA MP, at the end of November. During that discussion, it was agreed that a fresh economic appraisal, using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) should be undertaken.
This STAG appraisal will allow both Governments to assess the economic viability of the route. It will also allow us to identify the preferred ferry service option, together with the key terms of a service specification, which might be used for a future tender exercise, and a detailed review of the vessel availability.