THE Scottish and UK Governments have been called on to provide “critical” financial support for the proposed Scotland to Europe ferry.

The shipping expert behind the project to restore the route has warned that plans won't take off without backing from both Westminster and Holyrood.

“Without this being available, it is highly unlikely that current stakeholders will implement the route,” CEO of Ptarmigan Shipping Derek Sloan told The National.

In November, The National reported that a deal to secure the new ferry is nearing with the aim of reinstating the service in spring next year.

It followed SNP MP Douglas Chapman and Sloan hosting a delegation from the French port of Dunkirk and ferry company DFDS at the port of Rosyth (below) after “productive” talks were held in Dunkirk on the idea.

The National:

Sloan has told The National that “considerable progress” had been made and the target date for introducing the route remains May 2024.

However, the veteran ferryman said that government support is now “critical”.

“After lengthy discussions with all the stakeholders at the summit meetings, it is evident that there are significant start-up costs to be borne, primarily, but not exclusively, by the ferry operator (DFDS),” he said.

“It was decided that a paper of submission would be distributed to various offices and departments within the Scottish and UK Governments regarding the route, outlining the contribution and risks of the main stakeholders and asking for a committed package of funding support measures to help bridge the gap.”

Sloan added that there also remain issues with the border force and customs post-Brexit.

He said: “Currently, the Port of Dunkerque and the related Border Force Officials are confident that the solution is workable and are still aiming for the May start up date.

“Progress is slow, but confirmation that the proposed solution is acceptable needs to be agreed now, otherwise this issue will delay the implementation of the route.”

READ MORE: Scotland to Europe Ferry: ‘Productive’ talks held at Dunkirk

Kasper Moos, vice president of DFDS, said that the ferry company had done a lot of analysis on the route and believes that the route can operate on a “sustainable financial basis” with one vessel sailing three return sailing per week, while a two-vessel operation with 6 return sailings per week could be financially viable by 2030.

He added: “However, for this to happen, there remains some obstacles to overcome with port infrastructure, border force and, not least, start-up funding.

“If these obstacles can be overcome a direct ferry link between Scotland and Continental Europe is entirely possible”

Chapman, who has been a lead campaigner on this issue and is the current MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, said: “This route will meet the objectives of the Scottish and UK Governments in generating economic growth, reducing costs to import and export goods to and from Europe and reducing the carbon footprint.

“This is more than an emotional reaction to having a direct line into Europe, it’s driven by a hard – headed decision that we must make to grow our economy, boost exports and support our tourism sector by attracting more visitors to Scotland through this route.”

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."