AN MSP has backed calls to take operations at Hunterston into public ownership after a petition submitted to Holyrood received nearly 600 signatures in just 24 hours.

West Scotland Region Labour MSP Katy Clark spoke out as the petition, launched by the Campaign to Save Inchgreen Dry Dock, calls on the Scottish Government to revoke Peel Ports’ status as the harbour authority for the river Clyde and its estuary.

This would bring the network of ports into public ownership and compulsorily purchase the derelict Inchgreen in Greenock, Scotland’s largest dry dock, for industrial development.

Peel Ports has owned Clydeport since 2003, and is the harbour authority for hundreds of square miles along the River Clyde.

The company operates terminals at Glasgow, Greenock, Hunterston and Ardrossan, and has received millions of pounds in grant funding from the Scottish Government over several years.

However, issues have been raised by campaigners, trade unions and elected representatives about Peel’s business practices.

Ms Clark has frequently raised community concerns about Peel’s stewardship of Clydeport since being elected.

She explained: “It is deeply inappropriate for a private business owned in tax havens to own swathes of land and key assets, particularly given their record, including around health and safety.

“Peel has created anchorages on the Clyde close to residential areas, failed to sufficiently engage with communities on key development proposals and refused to dredge the Clyde beyond Braehead.

“They have also stalled progress for overdue upgrades at Ardrossan Harbour, and misused facilities such as Inchgreen which could instead be used by the government for industrial development.”

Ms Clark, formerly MP for North Ayrshire and Arran between 2005 and 2015, says the time has come to take the sites into public hands.

She said: “Instead of chucking grant money at this unaccountable mega-firm, it is time decisions about this key part of the economy were made in the public interest.

“I support the petition to bring Clydeport into public ownership and I am happy to speak in favour when it is brought to committee at the Scottish Parliament.”

Jim McSporran, port director at Peel Ports, has defended the company’s record and says it is investing millions of pounds up and down the Clyde.

He said: “We’ve invested multi-millions of pounds into various operations on the west coast, providing hundreds of direct and indirect jobs for Scotland over many years.

“These include £17m spent on two new state-of-the-art cranes for freight at the Port of Greenock in the largest single investment at the container terminal.

“The brand new £19.2m joint investment into new cruise berthing and passenger facilities at Greenock Ocean Terminal is set to deliver a record year for cruise calls and passenger numbers.

“As one of the UK’s most valuable assets for attracting inward investment, the transformation of Hunterston PARC is set to deliver thousands of highly skilled jobs over the coming years.

“Our programme of investment into Clydeport will continue and we remain fully committed to enabling business opportunities, while creating quality jobs and supporting growth.

The full petition can be viewed at

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.