Speaking at a meeting of the Highland Council today, Easter Ross councillor and Holyrood hopeful Jamie Stone welcomed the six month stay of execution for the one remaining emergency tug based in Orkney.

The candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross added that there was a real need for both the UK and Scottish Governments to give "a positive commitment" to work together to fund the long term retention of two emergency tug boats in the North.


"Anyone can see that only one emergency tug is insufficient to cover the vastness of the seas off both the West Coast and the North Coast" said Mr Stone "Further to this it is hugely important to remember when of the UK's biggest maritime emergencies unfolded in March 1999. 


"This was when the Cypriot registered Multitank Ascania carrying 1,750 tonnes of highly explosive chemicals caught fire four miles off Dunnet Head and was heading straight for the village of Scarfskerry.


"It was a truly scary time. A total exclusion zone was declared and a number of villages had to be evacuated - Caithness members will recall the fifty pupils at Crossroads Primary School being moved to Dunnet village hall for their safety. In the end a national disaster was averted - but as we all know, it was a horribly close-run thing.


"Remember too that only a year and a half earlier in October 1997 we had another near-miss when during force 8 gales the tanker 'Yusup K' drifted out of control in the Pentland Firth, this time with 9,000 tonnes of highly explosive naphtha on board. Thankfully this time disaster was also averted - but not before Dounreay bosses were preparing to shut down and evacuate the site.


"So the argument for the long-term retention of the emergency tugs based off the North Coast and off the West Coast cannot be contradicted. And this is why I support the motion before us - that we the Highland Council write to the UK Transport Minister Robert Goodwill and the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging them to work together to ensure that the long term finance for retaining both emergency tugs is put in place.


"The key here is joint working by both the UK and Scottish Governments. This would represent a change from the finger pointing culture that often bedevilled the relationship between the two governments in the past. Joint working on the future of the two tugs would very much be in the spirit of cooperation that we saw emerge in the recent additional powers agreement that was signed off between Westminster and Holyrood.


"After all the risk of a marine catastrophe is not necessarily a respecter of national boundaries. This is precisely why we must all work together to minimise this risk for the years to come. I hope that the Council will receive a positive commitment to work together from both the UK Transport Minister and Nicola Sturgeon."



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