Politicians have reacted with dismay to the news that Ardrossan Harbour's Irish Berth has been closed for good by owners Peel Ports.

Yesterday's news came just hours before the announcement that the new Arran ferry Glen Sannox's launch had been delayed from March until at least the end of May.

The Irish Berth closure stunned both the Scottish Government and CalMac - who knew nothing about it until informed by Ayrshire Weekly Press yesterday.

Cunninghame North SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson blasted the Peel Ports decision.

He said: “It is a damning indictment of Peel Ports management of Ardrossan Harbour that the Irish Berth - their asset - has been neglected into closure.

“Ardrossan and Arran are paying the price for the 1992 privatisation of Clydeport by the Tories, which took Ardrossan Harbour out of public control.

“The shutdown of the Irish Berth now poses major questions about how ferry services to Arran are supported in the short term and the impact on the redevelopment of Ardrossan Harbour.

“I will meet with Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop MSPS as a matter of urgency to press for solutions which increase capacity and resilience on the Arran service, whilst maintaining Ardrossan as the long-term Ayrshire port.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We were only informed earlier this morning (Friday) of Peel Ports decision to close the Irish Berth permanently.

"This is extremely disappointing but responsibility for safety lies with Peel Ports as the Statutory Harbour Authority. 

"They are also responsible for the upkeep, maintenance and replacement of the infrastructure in the port.

“Our focus is on ensuring that any impact on the Arran community as a result of this closure are minimised.

"We are in contact with CalMac to build upon the contingency already put in place to allow freight services from Troon, and finalising works at that port as soon as possible to maximise options.

“CalMac are in contact with the community and a joint meeting with Transport Scotland, CalMac and the Arran Ferry committee is planned for Monday.

“As previously noted the business case is being developed to inform decisions around upgrading Ardrossan.

"We would assure communities that this work is of vital importance in defining the scope of works, allowing greater certainty of the project costs and the financial package required from each of the funding partners, to deliver an improved service for the Arran community.

"Officials continue to work with project partners and communities on planning for the introduction of MV Glen Sannox to the Arran route, with services initially operating from Troon.”

However, West of Scotland Labour MSP Katy Clark responded: "This is another huge hammer blow for Ardrossan just days after the Scottish Government mooted the possibility the service could be relocated from the town.

“Ferry users and the local community have been failed miserably by owner Peel Ports and dithering Scottish Government ministers in the six years since the harbour upgrade project was announced.

"Today, the costs are unclear, there is no clear business plan in place and we are no closer to putting the infrastructure in place needed to run two lifeline ferries which were ordered whole nine years ago.

“The Scottish Government must now urgently clarify whether this latest closure will affect its proposed business case for the Harbour redevelopment project and what clear mitigatory processes it will set up for the service in scenarios where the Arran Berth is also out of use.

“I have written to Ardrossan Harbour Task Force members to demand a thorough assessment is made of the social and economic value of the ferry service to the town.

"A prolonged move to Troon would be absolutely devastating for Ardrossan.

"The Scottish Government must review this and reiterate its commitment that Ardrossan will remain the permanent destination for the Arran ferry.”

West of Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Green also laid the blame at the feet of the Scottish Government.

He told us: "This latest revelation is another hammer blow for islanders on Arran as the million pound a month ferry rental now can't even use the very port it was hired to service. Serious questions must be asked of why the SNP let this happen under their watch.

"We have one ageing vessel which is frequently out of action for lengthy repairs, another on loan costing the taxpayer more than a new ferry would cost, and the new one languishing in Port Glasgow some six years late.

"Is it any wonder island communities feel utterly betrayed by SNP ministers in Edinburgh. 

"We need urgent clarity if the MV Alfred can carry passengers as well as freight from Troon, and all of this will raise worrying debate about the long-term future of Ardrossan as the port of choice for Arran.  

"If you asked AI to write a script about an incompetent government cutting off its own citizens from mainland Scotland, the result wouldn't even scratch the surface of the utter fiasco that the SNP have created. "

Peel Ports has been approached for comment.