Scottish Forestry said a £2.6m deal it signed to move hundreds of thousands of tonnes of timber by sea instead of road would not put HGV drivers out of jobs and would safeguard employment instead.

The three-year contract with Associated British Ports (ABP) involves shipping 225,000 tonnes of timber across the Firth of Clyde from Argyll’s forests to wood processors in Ayrshire, instead of relying on trucks.

Scottish Forestry said this will save around 2.2m lorry miles and nearly 4,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

It will also result in 9,750 fewer lorry trips along the A83 trunk road, including the notorious Rest & Be Thankful, which has been plagued by landslips.

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However, Scottish Forestry also said the contract would result in no job losses: “The £2.6m contract is a very positive move all round and is not going to put any lorry drivers out of work,” said a spokesman.

“This is actually the signing of a further three years to a contract that has now been running for around 20 years.

“This shipping service still relies on lorry drivers to make short haul trips, rather than making long haul trips across the west of Scotland, and from our knowledge is popular with the drivers.”

The Scottish Forestry spokesman added: “There is a high demand for lorry drivers regardless – there’s not enough to meet demand so no-one is being put out of work as a result of the contract – if anything it is safeguarding the need for lorry drivers involved in the contract over the next few years.”