SCOTS could soon see the return of a popular direct ferry route linking Scotland to mainland Europe

SNP MP Douglas Chapman told The National that a ferry operator has been lined up to provide the service and “high level talks” are going ahead with a European port.

The lead campaigner for the issue, Chapman also thanked petitioners for encouraging the “final push to deliver the ferry service Scotland needs”.

He added that it would “boost trade, grow exports and tourism opportunities for our nation”.

It comes after The National revealed that a petition to reinstate the service had reached over 6000 signatures, with the campaigner who started the petition – Steven Low – saying “it's already many years late”.

Ferries stopped sailing between Rosyth and Zeebrugge on the Belgian coast five years ago, with the closest ferry connection for Scots taking them via Newcastle and, formerly, Hull.

The route was last open to freight in 2018. At the time it was operated by DFDS, a Danish international shipping company, 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.

READ MORE: Scotland to Europe ferry: A timeline of once popular service

Chapman revealed that DFDS have been lined up to take over the service again.

He added that the “availability of adequate berthing space” in Zeebrugge meant that talks were now underway with a different port on mainland Europe.

The MP for Dunfermline and West Fife (below) said: "This has been a long haul project however we have a reliable and highly professional ferry operator lined up in the shape of DFDS who have shown a keen interest in making our need for a passenger and freight service from Rosyth into the EU a reality.

“Talks continue with Forth Ports and the receiving port on the European mainland and difficulties raised by the UK Border Force are being ironed out with solutions being sought.

“Part of the issue has also been around the availability of adequate berthing space in Zeebrugge and consultants, Ptarmigan Shipping, are in high level talks with another receiving port. We think this will strengthen the business case and quality of the service for passengers and freight operators alike.

“So, while we are behind schedule, the creation of a direct ferry service between Scotland and Europe remains an exciting prospect. I thank the petitioners for their efforts in encouraging us to make the final push to deliver the ferry service Scotland needs and wants to boost trade, grow exports and tourism opportunities for our nation."

The National: Douglas Chapman MP

Ptarmigan Shipping director, Derek Sloan, added: "There is a great deal of effort going into what we have named as "Project Brave" which will see us deliver a direct ferry service from Scotland to Europe.

“I remain very confident that not only is this service a necessity for hauliers and tourists but will be a huge success on which we can build greater connectivity into European markets."

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "We’ve always made clear our support for the development of Scotland’s ports and the potential for new direct freight and passenger ferry services linking Scotland to Europe.

“We will continue to engage with port operators and others to explore how that might be delivered so that Scottish exporters have more direct routes to market and that passengers have viable alternatives to air travel. Any new service will require to be delivered on a commercial basis."