Government officials have been urged to provide financial backing for Aberdeen’s harbour expansion project to ensure it is not hit by further delays.
The opening of the new South Harbour at Nigg Bay has been delayed by between six and eight months due to the Covid-19 pandemic – and is now not set to open fully until 2022.
Earlier this year, principal contractor Dragados UK also pulled out.
Now north-east MSP Liam Kerr has pleaded with the Scottish Government to provide funding to prevent further delays to the project, which is around 70% complete and could create up to 2,300 jobs by 2026.
The Conservative shadow justice minister said: “Funding was given to the project when it was in its very early stages in 2017 but so much has changed then, especially with the obstacles presented by Covid this year.
“It’s fundamental that more financial support is given to this wonderful project that will benefit Aberdeen and the region for generations to come.
“The impact Covid was having on the development was evident a few months ago and as time goes on in these current circumstances, a financial package must be set up by the Scottish Government.
“To ease any further challenges and delays, the SNP Government needs to put its hand in its pocket and safeguard this major project in Aberdeen.
“Too often the north-east is forgotten about by the SNP in favour of the central belt – there is absolutely no excuse for the Aberdeen harbour project to be disregarded.”
In response to Mr Kerr, rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing confirmed discussions had been held with Aberdeen Harbour Board over ways to “safeguard” the project.
He said: “The Aberdeen harbour is a major project.
“I do know the Scottish Government Is in fairly close contact with the sponsors of the project and it has been delayed but I’m hopeful and confident these delays will be overcome.”
Michelle Handforth, chief executive of Aberdeen Harbour Board, said: “Since the safe restart of construction activities following lockdown earlier this year, we have made significant progress on site and the construction of South Harbour is continuing at pace.
“With our harbour expansion, we will unlock new opportunities for the north-east and realise our ambitions to be a world-leading port for numerous industries, while playing a key role in meeting energy transition targets and the growth of the maritime sector and international shipping.
“The project is vital for Scotland’s future economic prosperity and while we are continuing to work closely with the Scottish Government, the lasting impact of Covid-19 means that any additional support will help to ensure the project’s potential is fully realized, and the industries the Harbour will serve can prosper.”