Several potential sites have been identified for a £400m-plus pulp mill capable of consuming 2 million tonnes of domestic timber per year.

There have been discussions with paper manufacturers ‘to gauge their interest in operating such a pulp mill’, according to the Scottish Forest Industries Cluster Group.

Initial findings of a pre-feasibility study have indicated the development would be viable ‘if the necessary levels of funding are found’.

The latest statement confirmed that no preferred site had yet been identified despite press reports linking the project to the Hunterston deepwater ore terminal and the former Barmac fabrication yard at Ardersier.

Discussions with potential mill operators were ‘at a very early stage’ although ‘initial approaches have met with a positive and encouraging response’, it added.

If it goes ahead, the mill would displace imports, make use of the anticipated growth in Scotland’s timber production, and provide employment for up to 600 people. With the pre-feasibility study to be published shortly, ‘the next phase will involve examining funding and location issues in much greater detail’, according to Scottish Enterprise.