Highlands & Islands

Councils in coastguard tug call to shipping minister

MCA tug. Pic: Royal Navy
Image caption The current contract for leasing two vessels ends in four weeks

The leaders of four local authorities hope to meet UK Shipping Minister Mike Penning and urge a rethink of plans to withdraw emergency coastguard tugs.

Highland, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils have opposed UK government proposals to scrap the towing vessels to make savings.

The current contract to lease two ships for use by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency ends in four weeks.

The government has said companies should pay for towing operations.

However, the council leaders have said the tugs, based in the Western Isles and Shetland, play a crucial role protecting Scotland's coast from pollution.

Caithness Sutherland and East Ross Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso has agreed to make representations to Mr Penning.

He said: "I know all constituency MPs understand the importance of the issues involved and I am very happy to work together with the local authorities and constituency colleagues to facilitate a meeting with Mike Penning and the MCA."

The local authorities hope that it will be possible to have the meeting next week.

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