KATE Forbes has pledged immediate action to set up a ferry link between Scotland and mainland Europe if she becomes first minister.

The SNP leadership hopeful said she would reach out to the government in Flanders, Belgium, about re-establishing a link between Rosyth in Fife and Zeebrugge, according to The Courier.

The route was last open to freight in 2018. At the time it was operated by DFDS, but a fire on board its ship hastened the end as the company could not find a replacement and “lost all hope” of turning around losses.

The ferry last carried passenger services in 2010, eight years after it first began sailing.

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Kate Forbes said: "I will always seek to increase trade and investment from Scotland.

"If elected first minister, I will be happy to engage directly with the Flanders government."

SNP MP Douglas Chapman, who has been involved with the talks aiming at getting the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry back online, said it wouldn’t take much to get a deal over the line.

He said: “This has been a very frustrating process as there is currently a great ship available and we continue to get messages of support from haulage companies, exporters, potential customers and those in the tourist industry who see the obvious potential in the service being re-instated.

“I believe Kate’s involvement would kick start more serious discussions and by using government back-channels, to iron out any remaining flexibility issues.

“I don’t think it would take much to get the deal over the line and to see our direct Euro Ferry service back up and running successfully – especially at a time where our business and tourism sectors need a shot in the arm.”

In June 2022, a statement of intent released by DFDS and Ptarmigan Shipping said the firms had “signed an agreement with the intention to further investigate the possibility for a new ferry route between Rosyth and Zeebrugge with a target date being early 2023 for freight”.

It added: “This is all subject to the support we can get from the market and stakeholders, which will be our focus during the next few months. A further study is being carried out regarding the passenger business.”