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Hope fades as ETV deadline looms

THE COUNCIL’S political leader Josie Simpson is on his way to Edinburgh for a last ditch attempt to get a reprieve on the removal of the emergency towing vessels (ETVs) from the northern isles and The Minch.

Speaking before leaving the isles on Thursday morning, Mr Simpson admitted that such efforts were now almost beyond the 11th hour.

And northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael is on his way to London to learn if the coalition government has changed its mind on the hugely controversial issues at the very last minute.

ETV cover is now down to one vessel after the Anglian Sovereign was moved off station earlier this week. The Anglian Earl is still at Loch Eriboll, near Durness, and is due to be removed on Friday.

Mr Simpson said the conveners of the Scottish islands local authorities would meet on Thursday night in preparation for a formal meeting of the task force on Friday.

“I sincerely hope that there is some prospect that some sort of reprieve could still be achieved. We have to fight this to the very end.

“I hope we will get something back from the government before the end of the contract on Friday,” Mr Simpson said.

Meanwhile, councillor Jonathan Wills, who has written a book about the Braer oil spill, and is a long time campaigner for better marine safety said that emergency towing cover for the waters around the northern isles was more needed than ever before.

“Even before the Braer pollution disaster in 1993, the need for emergency tugs was obvious to anyone who took the trouble to study the subject. But it took us eight years of hard negotiations – by the then MP, the council, various environmental groups and the MCA’s Shetland marine safety sub-committee – to persuade the government that the tugs were an essential safety precaution.

“All that has changed since the tugs were first hired is that the dangers around our coastline have multiplied.

“This is an act of gross irresponsibility. The government’s first duty is to protect the public. The removal of our northern isles tug cover, for squalid financial expediency, endangers lives, the environment and the economy.

“Loch Eriboll is too far from the north of Shetland for the tug to be of any practical use in an emergency.

“I cannot understand how our respected local MP Alistair Carmichael can remain in the government after this decision by a shipping minister whose ignorance is matched only by his arrogance.”

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