Among the spending cuts recently announced by our coalition government, one of the most thoughtless has to be the decision to axe the four Marine Coastguard Agency tugs deployed around the UK.
To blandly state that it is not up to the taxpayer to provide such a service and suggest the response should rely on commercial marine salvage is ignorant in the extreme. If I recall correctly, when the Braer was in dire straits and needing assistance, the captain could not get the charterers to engage a commercial tug for fear of the salvage implications.
This played a major part in an attempt finally being made far too late in the day. This situation would not occur with an MCA tug available.
Lord Donaldson’s report made the case for MCA tugs to be stationed around the UK and in Shetland’s case Jim Wallace lobbied strongly for it. Alistair Carmichael has come out strongly in criticising and committing to change the decision, but where is our MSP Tavish Scott?
The £32.5 million over four years to maintain these four tugs on station is an absolute pittance when one considers the consequences should another Braer come along. With the assurances being given by the government on concerns over deep water drilling west of Shetland, a cut such as this is totally contradictory.
Given the oil revenue which has flowed into the UK government’s coffers from Shetland waters over the last 30 years, and which looks set to continue for another 30 at least, there is no justification for making this cut.