MSP Tavish Scott is writing to the UK shipping minister demanding that the emergency tug stationed in Shetland and Orkney waters is kept.
He wants the UK government to reconsider its “ill-considered proposal” to remove four ocean-going safety tugs from the waters around Britain.
Mr Scott warned that “the removal, with the resulting increase in the risk to Shetland’s coastline and to the lives of seafarers, may save money in the short term but there is the real risk that it will end up costing us far more than it saves”.
The stationing of the tug in the Northern Isles, one of four around the UK coast, was one of the Donaldson Report’s recommendations following the grounding of the tanker Braer in 1993.
The Anglian Sovereign is normally stationed around Shetland and Orkney, while it was her sister ship, the Stornoway-based Anglian Prince, which pulled off HMS Astute, the nuclear submarine which went aground on shingle banks off Skye on Friday.
The tugs were provided after a local campaign in support of Lord Donaldson’s recommendation. As a member of Shetland Islands Council at that time, Mr Scott strongly backed the tug campaign and he believes that the case is every bit as strong now as it was then.
He wrote: “The grounding of the Braer caused severe economic damage to Shetland, particularly to its seafood industry, despite the oil spilled being of a light grade which was dispersed by an exceptional period of wild weather.
“Had the tanker been carrying heavier oil, and had the weather not been so extreme, the impact would have been much worse and the cost to Shetland would have been far higher. If the tug is able to head off a major pollution incident of this nature then the cost will be repaid many times over. I therefore urge you to reconsider this ill considered proposal and to retain the emergency tug.”
Commenting on his letter, Mr Scott said: “Just as Shetland was united after the Braer in the campaign to get a tug stationed here, we are united again in this battle to keep the tug.
“Claims that commercial salvage tugs will step in might apply in the Dover Straights, but they most certainly don’t apply here.
“Alistair Carmichael has my full backing as he pursues this issue with ministers in London. I also want the UK Government to recognise that Sullom Voe brings in billions of pounds of revenue. So the modest but essential investment in a safety tug is a small price for the UK government to pay in return.”