THE report into the fight between Ardrossan and Troon for the Arran ferry service supports retention of Ardrossan, it was revealed on Monday.

The government ‘STAG’ report names Ardrossan as the shortest, fastest and cheapest route, the argument that has been put forward by campaigners since October of last year.

For the past six months, cross-party support for the retention of Ardrossan has been well documented with the bid from ABP and Troon Harbour being described as ‘predatory’.

As the Herald revealed on Friday, the report has been sent out to all relevant parties on Monday and they have 14 days to respond before the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, will officially announce his decision.

The reaction from supporters of Ardrossan has been one of relief and happiness that the decision looks to be heading the way of the historical home of the Arran ferry service.

The 98 page document looks at four key areas and although it doesn’t offer an overall recommendation, it is highly positive towards Ardrossan with Troon’s claims of a superior port being all but ruled out by industry experts.

The broad areas covered in the report are: Connectivity, Reliability, Overall Cost to the Public Purse and Socio-Economic considerations.

Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, said in a statement released on Monday that the report supports Ardrossan and he stated: “My officials at Transport Scotland commissioned this report, following consultation with all relevant parties and stakeholders.

“We have looked at the options under four broad pillars: Connectivity, Reliability, Overall Cost to the Public Purse and Socio-Economic considerations.

“At this stage, the report supports the view that the mainland port for the ferry serving Brodick and Campeltown should remain at Ardrossan. However, before any decision is made, Ministers wish to offer an opportunity for representations in light of the report.

“This invitation is being issued to Associated British Ports at Troon, Peel Ports at Ardrossan, Argyll & Bute Council, North Ayrshire Council and South Ayrshire Council.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting our lifeline ferry links. This study will help support careful and robust decision-making towards ensuring that the Arran ferry service is fit for purpose, whilst also getting the best value for the public purse.”

Leader of North Ayrshire Council and vocal supporter of Ardrossan, Joe Cullinane, expressed his delight at the report and said: “The STAG report confirms what we knew all along - there is no case for moving our ferry service.

“Ardrossan is the shortest, fastest and cheapest route for the Arran ferry and has better transport connectivity.

“The socio-economic case for Ardrossan is undeniable and the report confirms this too.

“It also blows apart the myth that Troon is a more reliable Harbour with the assessment clearly concluding that there is no measurable difference between the two.

“This has been a long process. It has been almost six months of uncertainty for people on both sides of the ferry service and I am glad we are nearing a conclusion.

“However, I am incredibly proud of our efforts to ensure this was a cross party campaign, free from party politics, and in particular how our community have united together to fight to retain the ferry service and I am sure this massive effort by so many individuals and groups will have played on the mind of the Minister.

“We know that a final decision will not be made until early April but we welcome the reports confirmation of our case and of course the Minister’s view that, at this stage, it supports the view that the ferry should remain in Ardrossan.

“The Council will review the report and provide comment before the deadline, reinforcing the reports and findings that it must remain Ardrossan to Brodick.”

Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North and Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, have both been behind the campaign to keep it in Ardrossan and Kenneth told the Herald: “In this fully comprehensive report it is clear that the independent consultants agree that the case for Ardrossan to be the lifeline ferry port of choice for Arran is compelling.

“Given the evidence, I fully expect that when Mr Yousaf makes his announcement it will be in favour of Ardrossan and investment in new port facilities there.”

Patricia Gibson added: “I very much welcome this report’s findings, confirming, as it does, the view of the overwhelming majority of those living in Ardrossan and Brodick, that the current route is the best for all concerned.

“What so many of us have argued throughout this process has now been independently verified. I look forward to the announcement from the Transport Minister and improvements to Ardrossan’s harbour.”

Doug Coleman, Peel Ports’ project director, said: “While we are taking nothing for granted, it’s clear that the report has recognised the overwhelmingly convincing case for retaining the Arran ferry service on the shortest, fastest and cheapest route.

“If and when this recommendation is confirmed, we will very quickly begin the marine and infrastructure project to ensure the new maritime hub at Ardrossan is ready to welcome the new £48.5m vessel which will take over the route next year.

“Together with our partners at North Ayrshire Council, we are 100 per cent committed to delivering the £15m investment which will improve the service and strengthen the local economies of Arran, Ardrossan and Kintyre for decades to come.”