THE new Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, has this week reaffirmed Ardrossan as the mainland port to serve Arran and Campbeltown.

On Monday, the Ardrossan Harbour Task Force met in Glasgow to take forward plans to redevelop the harbour. Participants included Transport Scotland, CalMac, Peel Ports, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, NAC, Arran Ferry Committee and local MSP Kenneth Gibson.

It was chaired by the SNP Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson.

And the timescale for the new ferry to serve Arran has been revealed, with the MV Glen Sannox set to serve locals and tourists alike from next summer.

Mr Gibson said: “I was delighted that he has reaffirmed Ardrossan as Ayrshire’s mainland port serving Brodick and Campbeltown.

“I stressed the need to ensure that when works begin on site to redevelop the port it is imperative that there is no closure of Ardrossan Harbour. The Irish berth can be used while the Arran berth is redeveloped. In this I was strongly supported at the meeting by NAC and Arran Ferry Committee.

“Action is now being stepped up to ensure that the barriers to commencing work are overcome as swiftly as possible.

“For example, the new £48.5 million ferry, the Glen Sannox, is the first vessel in UK waters to use the environmentally friendly liquid natural gas. It has been agreed that fixed-shore infrastructure will be installed by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd and procured by Calmac. New, complex and sensitive safety measures will need to be adopted, however, this technology has been used in Scandinavia for years, so no problems are envisaged.

“The upgrading of the initial plans mean that funding has been revisited. Five potential funding plans are being investigated with a decision to be announced before the end of this month.

“Statutory consultees NAC and Marine Scotland have been asked if an Environmental Impact Assessment is needed under the Town and Country Planning and Marine Acts. It seems not; and an examination of Harbour Revision Orders means that, as long as Peel Ports do not abrogate their responsibilities as owners of the harbour to a third party, these will not be required.

"I emphasised the need for public engagement and it was agreed that public meetings in both Ardrossan and Brodick would be held in September.

“Regarding deployment ofthe Glen Sannox on the Ardrossan route, it was confirmed to me on August 14 through a parliamentary question that it will enter service next summer, with a June delivery followed by two months of crew familiarisation and sea trials.

“The entire Task Force has rededicated itself to delivering an excellent, future-proofed new harbour to serve both Ardrossan and Arran as soon as possible.