Photo: Anglian Prince by Mike Dunn. CC BY-SA 2.0.John has written to the UK’s new Transport Secretary to repeat his call for the return of an emergency tug to the Western Isles, a need highlighted by the grounding of the Transocean Winner oil rig on Lewis.
The tug Anglian Prince was based at Stornoway until it was axed as part of Westminster cuts in 2012, leaving the Orkney-based Herakles as the only Emergency Towing Vessel covering Scotland’s northern waters.
“I am grateful that there were no personnel on board the Transocean Winner when it ran aground, and that therefore no-one was hurt. I also want to send my thanks to the Stornoway Coastguard and other responders, who have handled this disaster in tough weather conditions and while also responding to multiple other distress calls.
“However, we cannot yet know what the environmental damage may be, and there can be no guarantee that the next incident will pass without injuries or worse.
“This incident, along with the many others in recent years, demonstrates the urgent need for an emergency tug based in the Western Isles.
“The major inquiry held after the 1993 Braer disaster recommended as a priority that northwestern Scotland be provided with a strong emergency tug, and our seas have only got busier in the intervening three decades.
“Despite this, Westminster cuts abolished the Western Isles tug in 2012, leaving only the Orkney-based Herakles, which could take many hours to reach a vessel in distress in the Minch.
“We are a maritime nation and as such it is government’s responsibility to ensure that our seas and our coast are adequately protected. I’m repeating my call to the UK Government: reinstate the Western Isles tug, before Scotland has to pay the price.
“In the longer term, it’s clear that Scotland itself has to take responsibility for safety in Scottish waters. Our seas are being poorly served by a Westminster government for whom the far north of Scotland might as well be the far end of the world.”