A row has erupted after it emerged a round consultation meetings on the future of emergency tugs in UK waters will not visit Scottish coastal communities.
Politicians hit out after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced it would hold its only Scottish meeting regarding the future of emergency towing vessels (ETVs) in Edinburgh.
For campaigners seeking to secure services in the north – including reinstating an ETV to the Western Isles – it means a two-night stay in the capital and a potential loss of earnings to have their views heard.
Politicians across the spectrum are demanding a rethink from the MCA to hold meetings much further north – and on the islands.
The MCA announced yesterday it was planning to host meetings in Liverpool, London and Bristol, before coming the Edinburgh on June 27 – far away from the communities most affected.
Prior to 2012, Scotland was served by two ETVs – one based in the Northern Isles and one based in Stornoway to cover the West Coast.
The Stornoway-based tug was scrapped by the UK Government, leaving Scotland to be covered by just one ETV based in Orkney.
The MCA has recently announced a study to review the risks presented by, and to, shipping within the UK and to assess the availability and adequacy of emergency tow arrangements.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “For years we have been calling for the UK Government to live up to its maritime safety obligations and reinstate a dedicated ETV for the west coast of Scotland.
“This review is a welcome opportunity to reverse the dangerous cuts to emergency towing vessels after the UK government left Scotland with just one single emergency tug.
“But it is very disappointing to see just a single stakeholder meeting in Scotland – held in Edinburgh, some distance from most of our coastal, island and fishing communities.”
Calling the consultation a ‘box ticking exercise’, Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil added: “If they think that Edinburgh is a good enough location for a coastal consultation for the whole of Scotland, they are wasting their money.”
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “I wonder what expertise the Maritime and Coastguard Agency feel they will hear in London, Liverpool, Bristol and Edinburgh that they will not hear in Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stornoway or Mallaig.
“If this is a good faith exercise then its consultations should go beyond the big cities and reach into the coastal and island communities most directly effected.”