UK COST-CUTTING COSTS £80,000/MONTH EXTRA
Parliamentary questions have revealed that a temporary contract to provide emergency towing vessel cover, after the UK Government withdrew support for the permanent service in the name of cost cutting, is actually costing the taxpayer £80,000/month more than the original service.
Last week the Scotland Office announced a U-turn on the decision to withdraw funding for the lifeline service and launched a new procurement process for a reduced, single vessel cover. In the meantime, taxpayers will continue to pay for the temporary contract which was introduced last October.
The figures show that it cost £3,783,212 to temporarily reinstate the tug service for seven and half months after the original service was terminated last October. The average monthly payment was more than
£80,000 higher than in 2010/11 when the total full-year contract cost £5,048,743.
SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson and MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Angus MacNeil, who led the campaign against withdrawal of the service, said the Scotland Office still had questions to answer over the fiasco. Mr MacNeil pointed out that Ministers had not confirmed if cancellation of the original contract incurred any penalties.
Mr MacNeil said:
“Only Westminster could make cuts in the name of cost cutting but, after two years of uncertainty, land taxpayers with an even bigger bill for half the service.
“This has been a farce from start to finish and the Scotland Office still have serious questions to answer – whether, for example, cancellation of the original contract incurred any penalties.
“If the UK Government had listened to our warnings two years ago all of this cost and risk could have been avoided. We have been left with half the service we previously had to patrol Scotland’s 10,000km of coastline.
“From small issues like pasties to big issues like the future of emergency towing vessels in our waters, the UK Government is making really bad decisions. We would make better decisions in Scotland and not leave it to Westminster.”
The parliamentary questions received by Mr MacNeil are set out below.
Mr MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been spent from the public purse on emergency towing vessels in the waters around Scotland in each year since 2005.  Mike Penning: The following table details the cost of emergency towing vessels in the waters around Scotland in each of the financial years since 2005. The annual variability arises from fluctuations in fuel costs, port dues and levels of activity.
Financial year £
2012-13 (until the end of May 2012) 650,157
Mr MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been spent from the public purse on temporary emergency towing vessel contracts in each month since withdrawal of funding for permanent cover. 
Mike Penning: The information is not available on a month by month basis due to the structure of the contracts. The total cost of the contracts for temporary provision of the emergency towing vessel from
17 October 2011 to 31 May 2012 has been £3,783,212. The total cost reflects fixed and variable costs (including fuel costs and port dues which vary according to the level of activity).