A Western Isles MP has denied seeking political gain over the level of emergency tug cover available to the Northern Isles and Hebrides after a cargo vessel drifted for five days.
SNP member Angus MacNeil has launched fresh criticism against changes to emergency tug provision following last week’s drifting of the Eleanor D 150 miles north west of Lewis.
However isles MP – and Scottish Secretary of State – Alistair Carmichael has played down the incident, insisting the cargo boat was never involved in an emergency.
Speaking to The Shetland Times, Mr MacNeil said his primary concern was with safety at sea.
“There is maybe a fine line between politics and safety, but I would like to think I am coming down on the side of safety and insurance for our coastline.
“If some people want to see that as political, well, I think they are playing fast and loose with our environment.
“I’m sure many Shetlanders are like us in the Hebridean islands as well and are looking at marine traffic apps on their phones and see just how much shipping is around our islands.
“From what I see Shetland has more boats than the Hebrides, but we’ve got very big boats passing us.
“We can be thankful that the one that had a problem was quite far out to sea … and it was also carrying a cargo that was fairly benign in that it was wood chips. But the point is that this can happen to a certified ship’s engine going to sea. It could happen, I would argue, to a ship carrying a more dangerous cargo not so far out to sea.
“A tug would be an insurance policy. You might not need it this year, you might not need it next year, but it’s there for the one in 30 event.”
• For the full story, see Friday’s Shetland Times.