by a Newsnet reporter
Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has met his Northern Irish counterpart David Ford at the new Stena Ferry terminal at Cairnryan to discuss the policing arrangements at the port. The port is the Scottish side of the most important ferry route between Ireland and Scotland, and also carries a considerable amount of transit traffic en route from Northern Ireland and the Republic to destinations in England and beyond.
Mr MacAskill and Mr David Ford were joined by senior officers from Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland as well as officials from the UK Border Agency to talk about the arrangements for policing at ports in both countries and to collaborate more effectively in the combat against organised cross-border crime.
Last year the UKBA announced that it would no longer pay for three staff to perform security checks at the Stranraer terminal of the Northern Irish ferry route, and the ferry operating company Stena has moved its Belfast to Stranraer operations to the new site closer to the mouth of Loch Ryan. P&O ferries have long operated a service from Cairnryan to Larne.
Mr MacAskill said: “The security of our sea crossings is vital and the Scottish Government takes the policing of our borders and ports very seriously. I want to commend police on both sides of the water for all of their hard work ensuring our increasingly busy ports are secure.
“However, I am keen to ensure that following the withdrawal of UKBA support in Stranraer, police are not put under additional pressure due to routes between Northern Ireland and Scotland being exploited.
“I have raised my concerns with Home Office ministers in the past and will continue to do so. I am heartened that all partners will continue to work together to keep the situation under review and ensure operations are properly co-ordinated in the wake of this decision.”
Aileen McLeod, SNP MSP for South Scotland and member of the Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee, welcomed the discussions saying:
“The new facilities here in Loch Ryan are first class and I am really encouraged that the police on both sides of the Irish Sea are so keen to work together to enhance security in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
“The SNP Government takes the policing of our borders and ports very seriously indeed – and we fully understand that the security of our sea crossings is vital.
“I want to commend police on both sides of the water for all of their hard work ensuring our increasingly busy ports are secure.
“I would also like to extend my support for the government ministers from Scotland and our friends in Northern Ireland for their part in making this possible.”