The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore today confirmed up to £3 million of interim funding will be provided from the UK Government for replacement tugboats in the Northern and Western Isles. Funding will be delivered on an exceptional basis for three months to allow final attempts to secure a long-term replacement to continue.
Michael Moore said: “I am aware of the strength of feeling on this issue expressed by communities in the Northern and Western Isles. It is disappointing that efforts by local representatives to secure a commercial replacement for this service were unsuccessful before expiry of the contract.
“I believe it is worth a final attempt to try and find a solution, and the Scotland Office has agreed to lead the efforts. The UK Government is to offer funding to cover replacement services for an interim period and I am speaking to local authorities today on how this should work. Work is already underway and we are hopeful that a replacement service can be put in place as soon as practically possible.
“Everyone must be clear that this cannot be a long-term solution. The majority of traffic in these waters is owned by private companies and we will be engaging with them and others to find a satisfactory alternative.”
Commercial and salvage industry can be used by operators to assist ships in difficulty. There are a variety of means of securing this form of assistance if needed, including invoking powers to secure vessels from commercial providers. We are confident that if a vessel of this kind is required, there are sufficient commercial operators available to draw on.
The Minister will convene a meeting of a UK ETV group shortly and further details will be announced in due course.