Highland Council continues fight to protect coastal waters

Senior members of The Highland Council’s Administration are meeting with the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) today (9 March) to continue discussions on the future of the Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) in Scottish waters.

This follows on from a Working Group meeting in February which resulted in the UK Government agreeing to extend the contract for the current vessel for 6 months to enable further discussions to take place.

Cllr Allan Henderson, Chair of the Council’s Community Services Committee said:

“Securing the extension of the current ETV contract for 6 months was a great achievement and suggests that the UK Government is willing to engage constructively on this issue. However, it provides only a very short breathing space and we cannot afford to lessen the pressure. We need the Government to agree to permanent ETV provision for our precious coastline, in the West as well as the North, and I will be making the case for this very strongly when we meet today. It is unthinkable that so much could be put at risk for the sake of a small budget saving.”

Cllr Richard Green, Vice Chair of the Community Services Committee and KIMO member said:

“There are significant challenges involved in navigating around the West, the Northern Isles and Pentland Firth and this, combined with unusual tidal movements and severe weather makes the whole area particularly vulnerable to marine accidents. The Marine and Coastguard Agency has accepted that there is no commercial alternative available to come to the aid of a stricken vessel. As well as the increased risk of loss of life, the removal of all ETV capability would leave the whole area vulnerable to potentially catastrophic environmental and economic damage.”

Leader of the Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson said:

“This is a crucial issue for Highland Council. We have two thirds of the country’s coastline and any serious environmental incident would have major national implications for many generations to come. This is why we have a Motion at our Council meeting on Thursday to call on both the UK and Scottish Governments to reach an agreement on the long term funding for two ETVs – one in the North and one in the West.”

The Highland Councillors will be joining colleagues from Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles Councils as well representatives of KIMO at the Scotland Office in Edinburgh to press for the continuation of funding for the last remaining Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) in UK waters and for the reinstatement of a second vessel on a permanent basis. It is understood that the Scottish Government will also be represented at official level along with officers from Marine Scotland, Transport Scotland and SEPA.

9 Mar 2016
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