THE Scottish Government are missing an “obvious opportunity” by not financially backing the reinstatement of a Scotland to Europe ferry, Alba have said.

In November, The National reported that a deal to secure the new ferry route between Rosyth and the French port of Dunkirk is nearing with the aim of reinstating the service in May.

But a progress report released on Wednesday called on the Scottish and UK Governments to provide “critical” financial support.

Derek Sloan – the shipping expert behind the project – warned that despite stakeholders – including both ports and ferry operator DFDS – being behind the project, plans likely won't take off without government backing due to “significant” start-up costs.

READ MORE: ‘Scotland could have new ferry routes to France, Germany and Scandinavia’

When asked for comment, the UK Government told The National that it was a matter for Transport Scotland – whose spokesperson said that any new service “will require to be delivered on a commercial basis”.

“I just cannot fathom their reluctance to get behind this,” Neale Hanvey told The National – who previously suggested a meeting should be held early in 2024 to bring together all interested parties.

“It’s not just a no brainer, it's a strategic imperative.”

The National: Former SNP leadership contender Ash Regan (right) with Alba's Westminster leader Neale Hanvey during a photocall at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, after she defected from the SNP, becoming the Alba Party's first ever MSP. Picture date:

The Alba MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said that financial support was “chicken feed” compared to the potential benefit.

He added: “You would recoup that money through tourism and economic activity several times over and the advantages that it would give to new start-ups and new businesses in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Lothians and Fife – although not just restricted to them – would be enormous.”

Hanvey went on to say that the Scottish Governement needs to take the “strategic lead” on this issue and that the route is also crucial for the prospect of an independent Scotland.

“If you are trying to build an independent Scotland and you want to have the infrastructure necessary to launch independence as soon as possible,” he said.

“Then sea routes have got to be pretty much top of your list for an island nation.”

Hanvey also highlighted that the route would “decrease significantly” the amount of road haulage on the roads from Scotland down to England, improving air quality and logistics.

Scots currently need to travel down to Newcastle if they want to take a ferry to mainland Europe after the freight service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge in Belgium stopped sailing five years ago. The last that carried passenger services was in 2010.

He said: “Those are the winning arguments as far as the UK Government is concerned. But in terms of the Scottish part of the story, it's vital that for economic reasons – regardless of whether you are pro or against independence – that we have direct sea links into Europe.”

The National: Humza Yousaf

During the SNP leadership election, Humza Yousaf said he would be “open” to directly intervening in the efforts to re-establish a ferry link between Scotland and mainland Europe. But since becoming First Minister, he has so far remained silent on the issue.

SNP MP Douglas Chapman – the lead campaigner on reinstating the service – told The National that DFDS are “ready and willing” to engage with both Scottish and UK Governments at senior ministerial level.

He added: “They are also keen to get this vital service up and running, which would be of huge benefit to our exporters, tourism sector and economic growth."

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."