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Shipping minister agrees to tug talks

SHIPPING minister Mike Penning has agreed to come to Shetland early in the new year to be lobbied on the proposal to withdraw funding for the four emergency towing vessels stationed in the waters around the UK.
There was an outcry of disgust in the northern isles and around the Scottish west coast last month, when it emerged that the tugs were to become victim of comprehensive government spending cuts.
In a letter to Shetland Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness, Mr Penning has now accepted an invitation to visit Shetland to see first hand the importance of the tug to maritime safety in the northern isles.
The MP for Hemel Hempstead also indicated that he is prepared to meet a delegation from the highlands and islands in London before then.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s infrastructure committee on Tuesday, Mr Cluness said he was pleased by the positive response from the minister.
“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 are many other coastal areas.
“The rescue of the nuclear submarine 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.”