UK shipping minister Mike Penning has agreed to meet SIC convener Sandy Cluness to discuss the controversial proposal to withdraw funding for emergency coastguard tugs.
Last month’s decision by the UK government, as part of its national spending review, was not to renew the contract for four tugs around the UK, with the aim of saving £32.5 million.
Mr Cluness said: “I’m pleased that the shipping minister has accepted my invitation to meet. He has indicated that he is coming to Shetland in the New Year, but has also said that he is prepared to meet earlier than that in London.
“The whole of the Highlands and Islands is concerned with the removal of this essential safety measure – the west of Shetland, the Pentland Firth and the Minches are clearly extremely vulnerable, but so to are many other coastal areas.
“The rescue of the nuclear submarine [off Skye last month] is a perfect example of an unforeseen accident which might have had huge environmental consequences for Skye and the mainland. It may therefore be appropriate to have a joint delegation meeting with the minister in London.”
Mr Cluness was speaking after returning from a meeting of the conveners of Highlands and Islands Councils in Edinburgh last week, along with representatives from Highland, Orkney, Western Isles, North Ayrshire, Argyll & Bute and Moray.