Last month, North Ayrshire Council was finally able to approve an agreement to kickstart the tendering process for work on the redevelopment of Ardrossan Harbour – a whole six years after the project was agreed to by then transport minister Humza Yousaf.

The development, proposed by the former Scottish Labour administration at North Ayrshire Council, is undoubtedly ambitious: a new terminal, installation of a new linkspan, realignment of the current berth, and overdue repairs to the fenders, essential for reducing abrasion when ferries dock at the harbour.

Nevertheless, I know from speaking to residents in the area about this issue there has been widespread bafflement at the slow progress of this project.

Despite receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds in grant funding towards design costs for the project from the Scottish Government, the port’s intransigent private owner Peel Ports has continually hindered movement by refusing to agree to realistic grant terms.

Irvine Times: Katy Clark MSPKaty Clark MSP

Instead of recognising the harbour’s strategic importance and taking it into public ownership, ministers have dithered and delayed.

Whilst belated progress to the procurement process is welcome, the unfortunate fact is these delays mean an opportunity has been missed to complete the most essential works ahead of the arrival of new fleet.

Now, with the redevelopment not projected to be completed until at least 2026, even the MV Glen Sannox, the vessel for the Ardrossan-Brodick route still being fitted out at Ferguson Marine shipyard, may be completed before then.

As a result, islanders, ferry users and local businesses will be the ones who pay the price, with the service to be relocated from Ardrossan to Troon for the duration of the construction phase.

We’ve been told this will be temporary, but I can understand why many are sceptical about the announced timeframes when deadlines have been continually pushed back.

The Ardrossan-Brodick route is one of the busiest passenger routes in the network and this move will be a huge problem for many passengers, affecting the viability of local taxi businesses and other transport links.

The reason we have reached this scandalous point is due to the Scottish Government failing to provide necessary investment for new ferries or port infrastructure over a lengthy period of time.

Yet I believe it’s also sadly indicative of the neglect suffered by communities in North Ayrshire and Arran over many years.

When I became MP for the area in 2005, I frequently raised at Westminster that there was a need for a strategy from the UK Government to rebalance power and wealth to communities.

Since I was elected MSP in 2021, I have sought to do the same in the Scottish Parliament, particularly as the Three Towns still bear the scars of deindustrialisation decades on.

The loss of Ardrossan’s ferry route for any prolonged period would represent yet another failure by policymakers to support our local economy.

It must be all hands on deck to ensure that doesn’t happen.