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Still hope for ETVs

DISCUSSIONS between isles MP Alistair Carmichael, the department of transport and the treasury are still ongoing in an attempt to find a last minute reprieve for the emergency towing vessels (ETVs) in the northern isles and The Minch.

Last week, it emerged that the UK government was determined to remove the ETVs as of 30 September despite a coordinated campaign by local authorities and environmental organisations to achieve at least a six month extension to the current contract.

To the horror of mariners in the northern isles the department of transport insisted in a statement to the transport select committee, that the harbour tugs based at Sullom Voe could be deployed in case of a shipping emergency in the waters around Shetland and Orkney.

On Thursday, after re-emerging from five days at the Lib-Dem party conference, in Birmingham, Mr Carmichael confirmed that his discussions with government departments were “still very much alive”.

The deputy chief whip to the coalition government said he was hesitant to say more publically “at this time”.

Meanwhile, a number of Scottish politicians have added their voice to the growing list of people who expressed outrage at the UK government for its intention.

Highlands and Islands list SNP MSP Jean Urquhart said she had written to shipping minister Mike Penning describing the plan to remove the ETVs with a risk assessment having been carried out as “quite ridiculous”.

“The Westminster select committee, local people and politicians have been opposing this for months now, by ignoring their informed opinions they further polarise themselves from Scotland politically.

This is another issue that outlines how apparent it is becoming that Westminster feels no pain when cutting services in the Highlands and Islands,” she said.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart also has written to Mr Penning pleading for a six month extension to the contract to allow for a risk assessment to be carried out.

“Withdrawing the service, while no alternative provision is in place, would leave our north and west coast communities and seafarers in an extremely vulnerable position. 

“We are concerned that no formal consultation was conducted prior to this decision being taken but further that a risk assessment has not been conducted, we understand, due to budgetary reasons alone.”