THE First Minister has been asked for "practical support" to bring back the ferry link between Rosyth and Europe.

Douglas Chapman MP says the service across the North Sea "can and will pay its way" and has written to Humza Yousaf to help speed up its return.

Ferries stopped sailing between Rosyth and Zeebrugge five years ago and the SNP politician has led the campaign for return journeys.

Mr Chapman, the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, told the Press: “We have had many hurdles to overcome in re-establishing this service which, post-Brexit, I see as being crucial to the Scottish economy, both in terms of trade and exports but also in making it easier for people to visit Scotland and opening up a non-flying option to those who want to holiday or visit friends and family in Europe.

“With a new First Minister being elected a few weeks ago, I have written to him to seek his practical support for the project."

He said that, during the election campaign to appoint a new SNP leader, both Mr Yousaf and Kate Forbes offered their "commitment" to the ferry service.

The MP added: "As the ultimate winner of that contest, I have asked Humza Yousaf for a meeting to discuss accelerating the progress we’ve made with Forth Ports, DFDS, Ptarmigan Shipping and other partners."

Last summer, DFDS and Ptarmigan Shipping signed an agreement “to further investigate the possibility” of re-opening the route with a target date of early 2023 for freight.

And in October Mr Chapman travelled to Copenhagen for talks with the two companies, and returned in a "very positive" mood after declaring "we’ve never been closer to delivering a reliable, cost-effective direct maritime link from the heart of Scotland and into the heart of Europe".

This week he said: “I was also greatly heartened to read in last week’s Press that Fife Council have also put a direct ferry link in their forward-looking strategy for the Kingdom and if we can work smartly and cohesively as 'Team Scotland' then I am sure we can see this project through to delivery.

"It’s an objective I set myself when first elected and while it has been a very bumpy road, Brexit has certainly complicated the landscape.

"What we do know is this service can and will pay its way, but political support is the last piece of the jigsaw and I am confident that will be forthcoming from governments at both ends of the route.”

As reported last week, Fife Council's draft local transport strategy for 2023-33 includes renewed support for the return of the Euro ferry, which began in 2002.

Superfast Ferries embarked on a direct sea route between Rosyth and Zeebrugge until the service was taken over by Norfolkline.

It stopped carrying passengers in 2010, when it became a freight-only service.

DFDS became the operator but it reached the end of the line shortly after a fire on board the Finlandia Seaways ship in April 2018.