No timescale has yet been confirmed for the start of the vital work to upgrade Ardrossan harbour - as an MSP raised "real concerns" in Holyrood that the Arran ferry service will be permanently lost to Troon.

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene raised a question in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, demanding an update about the long delayed harbour work.

And Labour MSP Katy Clark later told Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop: "There is now real concern that Ardrossan is going to lose out to Troon permanently."

Earlier this year, government agency Transport Scotland announced that the procurement process for the Ardrossan work had been paused amid concern at the rising cost of the project.

Ms Hyslop told MSPs: "In relation to Ardrossan, as I have outlined in this chamber, that the improvement works will need to be extended from the original investment proposal.

"The replacement or strengthening of the Winton Pier at Ardrossan and the Irish berth, which in certain winter conditions ferries use to manouvre of of the harbour, has expanded that piece of work.

"North Ayrshire Council and also Peel Ports, as partners in that process, are delivering ongoing work to make sure that we have got the robust investment decision that we can make."

She said she was unable to give a date for the start of the upgrade as they were awaiting a report from consultants which would not be available until "late November".

November, of course, comes to a close this Thursday.

In September, First Minister Humza Yousaf gave assurances to Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson and North Ayrshire MP Patricia Gibson that Ardrossan will remain the main port for Arran once the improvements are complete.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: MSP Jamie GreeneMSP Jamie Greene (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Greene's question at Holyrood today was: "To ask the Scottish Government, further to the finance secretary’s letter to the Finance and Public Administration Committee on November 21,  whether it will provide an update on the delivery of “vessels and piers” projects, including the Small Vessels Replacement Programme and the port works at Ardrossan and Gourock harbours."

He raised the issue after weekend news reports described how finance secretary Shona Robison had told Holyrood's finance committee - of which local MSP Mr Gibson is the chair - of a "reprofiling" of spending plans to replace Caledonian MacBrayne's fleet of small ferries, and to upgrade the terminals at Ardrossan and Gourock.

Ms Hyslop said: "The government is committed to the funding of new vessels and port infrastructure to support our lifeline ferry services. The business cases for Ardrossan and Gourock are under review to help inform robust investment decisions.

"The different partners in the Ardrossan project have further work to do in the project following the pause in procurement in the summer as the scope of the necessary work has been extended.

"I have recently written to the Ardrossan task force members on this work."

Mr Green responded: "We were told that the Ardrossan Harbour upgrade would be finished construction by spring or summer 2026, I’d quite like an update on whether that’s still on track.

"All this contradicts comments made in the letter to the finance committee by Deputy First Minister Shona Robinson that this reprofiling will, I quote ‘push out timescales for future improvements'.

"So my next question is this: what future improvements will be 'pushed out' - delayed, in other parlance - and are these harbour redevelopment plans also going to be delayed or are they on track as well?"

Ms Hyslop said the Ardrossan works would need to be extended from the initial proposal due to additional work being required at the harbour 

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: MSP Katy ClarkMSP Katy Clark (Image: Newsquest)

West of Scotland Labour MSP Ms Clark then said: "Ardrossan waited six years for the Scottish Goverrnment to agree terms with Peel Ports while ministers refused to agree with the call to bring the port back into public ownership to make progress.

"There is now real concern that Ardrossan is going to lose out to Troon permanently.

“What is the Scottish Government doing to ensure urgent consideration of a business case for the essential works at Ardrossan Harbour - and why has this work been left so late?"

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The new Glen Sannox ferryThe new Glen Sannox ferry (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Hyslop responded: "Clearly the issue of public ownership is a different one necessarily to the progress of the different partners in delivering the works are are required in relation to Ardrossan.

"I want to make sure we have the most robust business case we can.

"For example NAC have been liaising with the Isle of Arran Ferry Committee, and have appointed consultants to provide a report. That won’t be available until late November, so we couldn’t deliver in terms of that business case now.

"But that's what partnership working is about.

"There are more than one partners involved in this and looking at the extension for the Winton Pier and the 'Irish berth', which would not have been in the original proposals that she had reflected on."

After the session ended, Ms Clark said: "This latest news will only cause further anxiety for communities who rely on the Ardrossan-Arran service, which is the busiest on the entire network.

“It took six years for the Scottish Government to agree grant terms with Peel Ports on these urgent redevelopments. Just weeks later, the project was paused due to costs being higher than previously feared even though the upgrades are urgently needed to accommodate new vessels set to launch from next year.

“Now the costs have been ‘reprofiled’ to next year, with consultants appointed to provide a fresh report on costings. Why on earth has it taken this long for the Scottish Government to ensure the work was done so there was a serious business case ready? That must be presented to the Ardrossan Harbour Task Force imminently, with costs and implications presented to parliament for scrutiny.

“Millions of pounds are being spent on this project, which is vital for ensuring the harbour is modernised and equipped to accommodate the two new vessels under construction at Ferguson Marine.

"Islanders, the town of Ardrossan, local supply chains and transport links rely on this crucial crossing, so everything must be done to guarantee the service is not moved to Troon on a more permanent basis.”