An emergency towing vessel (ETV) is still needed on the west coast of Scotland to protect lives and the environment, said Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil following news that the UK Government has committed to fund an ETV in the north of Scotland for a further five years.

The current vessel is based in Orkney and Mr MacNeil, together with SNP colleagues and local authorities, has argued that the safest option is to have a further ETV based in Stornoway to assist in the event of an emergency.

Mr MacNeil welcomed the announcement that following a review by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the ETV at Orkney will remain in place but will continue to press for reinstatement of such a vessel at Stornoway.

He said: “I am very glad that the UK Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has listened and has u-turned on plans to discontinue funding for the Orkney vessel. However we are still a vessel down and I will continue to press the UK Government to listen to the real concerns expressed about lack of cover for the West Coast and to reinstate a vessel based in Stornoway.”

He added: “Mr Goodwill has concluded that the operational experience of the last five years has shown that a single vessel is sufficient to meet the needs for emergency towage and that a second ETV cannot be justified by the updated risk assessment. I would say to him that the risks are still the same as they were prior to 2011 and the fact is that it would take many hours for an ETV to steam from Orkney to some parts of the west coast in the event of an emergency situation and the reality is that this could be too late.”

“The UK Government are taking a cost cutting risk and have no insurance policy against a situation like the Braer disaster which might happen once in 25 years, once in 50 years or once in 100 years but would have a devastating impact on the Scottish coastline.” 

Angus debate

Angus MacNeil MP took part in a debate in the House of Commons on the ETV provision in February.