Commercial plan must include the Pentland Firth

HIGHLAND councillors have unanimously supported a call for the reinstatement of the Emergency Towing Vessel, which until recently was based in the Minches, and for the successful conclusion of an agreement with the Oil and Gas Industry to provide ETV capability for the Northern Isles, fearing an environmental catastrophe if vital cover is not provided in the rural and exposed coastal waters.
Council Leader Michael Foxley highlighted the importance of the tugs at the last full Highland Council meeting before the May elections, showing slides that highlighted the extent of a potential oil spill should previous groundings have led to a spillage.
He said he was encouraged by the positive statements recently made by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore for the reinstatement of the tugs but said meetings at the highest level in the Scottish and UK Governments were needed to reinforce the message.
Councillor Foxley said: “It is vital that we retain this crucial service in the Highlands and Islands to safeguard our shipping and coastline. We need to continue to keep the pressure on the Government to make urgent progress. An ETV is required now, not at some unspecified point in the future, because recent incidents in the Minches and also off the Welsh Coast only this week have demonstrated just how vulnerable we are to marine incidents that have the potential to have a devastating human, environmental and economic impact.”
Councillors stressed that it is essential to retain a Government-funded ETV for the Minches in the absence of any commercial alternatives and to ensure that any commencial agreement reached for the North encompasses the Pentland Firth.