Falkirk MSP says Brexit strengthens case for Scandinavian ferry plan

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Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald says his revived bid to open a direct ferry route from Scotland to Scandinavia could be a lifeline for tourism.

He is urging ferry operators to ‘get round the table with the Scottish Government and make it happen’, arguing that damage expected from Brexit gives the idea a new urgency.

But there seems little hope any such link would operate from Grangemouth, although he has argued the case for it before.

Commenting on social media, Mr MacDonald said: “We tried to get Forth Ports to put in the necessary infrastructure at the Port of Grangemouth in the early 90’s, but their preference was Rosyth, which is now geared up for ferry and cruise ship services.

“They used the argument that travelling up the Forth to Grangemouth would add another hour to the journey.

“We tried to convince them, but Rosyth isn’t a bad Plan B!”

He says a sea link with Denmark (for example) had the potential to grow exports from Scotland as well as to support tourism.

Office of National Statistics figures show there were more than 15 million visits to the UK from Scandinavia between 2011 and 2016, and that these visitors brought £8.5bn to the UK economy.

Now, says Mr MacDonald, press coverage in Scandinavia suggests there’s strong interest in bringing the idea to life.

“There is great demand on both sides of the North Sea for a direct passenger ferry link between the UK and Scandinavia – and this represents a great opportunity for Scotland”, he said.

“Whether we can secure a route between Aberdeen, Rosyth or elsewhere and one of the fantastic Scandinavian destinations is of course up to the ferry operators – but it would be a significant boon for our economy if we can bring the service back.”

He added: “The full implications of the Tories’ extreme Brexit are yet to be known – but given how they have handled the process so far, we can only guess that they will provide our tourism sector with unnecessary challenges.

“In this context, it is vital that we develop and maintain strong connections with the rest of Europe in order to keep enticing tourists to Scotland – and the economic benefit of increasing visitor numbers from some of the world’s wealthiest nations is clear.”