Isles MP Angus MacNeil has criticised the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for carrying out a ‘box ticking exercise’ on future arrangements for Emergency Towing Vessels (ETV) in Scottish waters.

After years of campaigning for the reinstatement of an ETV on the West coast - for issues of safety and environmental protection - Mr MacNeil says a single public engagement meeting being held in Edinburgh is simply not good enough as part of a study commissioned by the MCA to look at future arrangements.

He said: “The West Coast of Scotland needs an Emergency Towing Vessel and we have been telling the MCA that for many years now. We need action on this, not more words.

“If they think that Edinburgh is a good enough location for a coastal consultation for the whole of Scotland, they are wasting their money.

“I support calls from my colleague Alasdair Allan MSP calling for them to visit the Isles and discuss this extremely important issue with the communities that this directly affects.”

The MCA are carrying out a Shipping Risk and Emergency Towage Provision Study which will review the risks presented by and to shipping within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This was previously carried out in 2008.  As part of this study four stakeholder meetings will be held. However, the only Scottish meeting is in Edinburgh – far away from the communities most affected.

In 2016, a petition was launched by Stornoway SNP Councillors Gordon Murray and Rae Mackenzie calling for the reinstatement of the West Coast vessel. This was submitted to Downing Street in 2016 by Highlands and Islands MPs.

Earlier MSP Alasdair Allan called for the MCA to come to the Western Isles and listen to islanders’ views as part of the study assessing emergency towage arrangements in UK waters.

Prior to 2012 Scotland was served by two Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) – one based in the Northern Isles and the one based in Stornoway to cover the West Coast.

However, the Stornoway-based tug was scrapped by the UK Government, leaving Scotland to be covered by just one ETV based in Orkney.

Alasdair Allan MSP 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.

“If the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are serious about this consultation they need to properly engage with communities and industry in communities like the Western Isles.”

The meetings are: 

  • Wednesday 19 June Liverpool (Marriott Hotel)
  • Friday 21 June London (Trinity House)
  • Tuesday 25 June Bristol (Marriott Hotel)
  • Thursday 27 June Edinburgh (Northern Lighthouse Board)