The Scottish islands minister has said that Hollyrood remains totally opposed to the withdrawal of the Coastguard emergency towing vessel, based in Orkney, and that it is continuing to put pressure on Westminster not to axe the service.
Speaking after a meeting of the Islands Area Ministerial Working Group in Lerwick Town Hall today, Derek MacKay also ruled out Scottish funding for an emergency tug if it is withdrawn by the UK government.
Mr MacKay, who met island council leaders along with local government minister Marco Biagi, emphasised that the Scottish government had done everything in its power to soften cuts from Westminster but could not take on the cost of an emergency towing vessel.
It is the latest statement in the political push to retain an emergency towing vessel in the north of Scotland, in support of which The Shetland Times has started a petition.
Mr MacKay said: “We absolutely oppose the UK government’s position on this and they are well aware through the Scottish government what our position is on this.
“The Scottish government spends a lot of energy trying to mitigate the impact of Westminster decisions, but the first priority has to be to stop the UK government doing what they are proposing to do. We cannot substitute everything that they withdraw from Scotland.”
Mr MacKay added that there was “a big question here for” Westminster surrounding the emergency tug provision and other matters, including the islands deal.
He said: “If they see the islands as a priority and they want to show that they take them seriously in the UK following the outcome of the referendum, then I think they need to show that now.
“The Scottish government will continue our strong relationship with the islands and hope the UK government will do the same and treat the current request for an islands deal with the same respect that they have shown to others. It is all the more reason to apply pressure on the UK government and Westminster and we will continue to do that.”