Highlands & Islands

New deal on emergency tug for Scotland until 2015

Anglian Sovereign. Pic: Simon Riley/MCA
Image caption Previously vessels such as the Anglian Sovereign were hired by the coastguard

The UK government will fund an emergency towing vessel to cover Scotland's coast until 2015.

Two tugs were hired by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to go to the aid of stricken vessels off Scotland's west and northern coasts.

The government moved to end the contracts in late 2011 before agreeing to short extensions until March 2012.

But it said the new deal would be for a tug to work "around Scotland's coast as required".

It added that where the vessel was stationed would be agreed with the company eventually awarded the contract.

The MCA would be in control of the operation and tasking of the tug.

The Scottish government and SNP Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil welcomed the "u-turn" but said there was a lack of clarity over where it would be stationed.

'Financial constraints'

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: "As a government, we have listened closely to all the views which have been put forward in this process.

"We have worked hard within the UK government with the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to find the best solution to maintain emergency towing vessel cover within the financial constraints we face."

He added that talks were continuing with the oil and gas industry about it also providing help when needed using its vessels.

Previously, vessels such as the Anglian Sovereign were hired by the MCA.

One was stationed in the Western Isles and another in the Northern Isles.

Mr MacNeil said: "While welcoming this commitment to continue funding a single patrol, this is clearly half the service we had previously to serve Scotland's near 10,000km of coastline.

"This has been a classic Westminster farce from beginning to end, and we still need answers over where this service will be stationed."

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said an "appropriate level" of cover should be provided for an area previously patrolled by two tugs.

Charles Kennedy, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, congratulated campaigners who pushed for a service to be maintained.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) has welcomed the announcement.

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