Highlands & Islands

Talks on future of tugs in Lewis and Shetland expected

Anglian Sovereign. Pic: Simon Riley/MCA
Image caption Two emergency tugs cover the west coast and Northern Isles

Talks are to take place later between campaigners and the UK government about the future of two emergency tugs covering Scottish waters.

Vessels hired to carry out Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) duties around the UK coastline were withdrawn last year to save money.

But protests led to tugs returning to bases in Lewis and Shetland on a temporary basis until 31 March.

Scotland Secretary Michael Moore is due to meet with campaigners.

They include representatives from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Highland, Orkney and Shetland councils.

Beyond 31 March, the oil and gas industry has offered to support the MCA by deploying its chartered vessels in emergencies off the Northern Isles.

However, a long-term solution for the Western Isles and west Highlands had still to be agreed.

The vessels provide pollution control and, in the past, have gone to the aid of private and military vessels in distress.

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