The grounding of a cargo ship off Kilchoan in the Sound of Mull this week proves that control over the Maritime and Coastguard Agency should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
So says Brendan O’Hara, the SNP’s General Election candidate for Argyll and Bute, who alleges that continuing control from Westminster over the operation of the MCA is responsible for the agency’s reduced presence on Scotland’s west coast.
Speaking at the AGM of the party’s Strachur branch AGM on Thursday, Mr O’Hara said: “The running aground of the Lysblink Seaways in the Sound of Mull in the early hours of Wednesday morning highlights once again the folly of the Tory / LibDem coalition’s decision to slash the presence of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on Scotland’s west coast.
“With Scotland’s only Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV), the Herakles, stationed in Orkney, it was left to two private tugs, one travelling from Mallaig, the other from Port Glasgow, to come to the assistance of the stricken ship.
“This is a completely unacceptable position to be in given the amount of traffic on the west coast.”
The 394-foot Lysblink Seaways, which was carrying a cargo of paper from Belfast to Norway, ran aground near Ardnamurchan Point on Wednesday, but was refloated on the high tide on Thursday evening.
None of the nine crew members on board was injured, but the MCA declared an exclusion zone around the vessel, and a team of divers inspected the ship’s hull on Friday to check the extent of the damage.
“The coalition were repeatedly warned that their decision to remove the ETV from Scotland’s west coast was a dangerous gamble,” Mr O’Hara continued.
“Thankfully on this occasion no lives were lost but in the often treacherous waters of Scotland’s west coast, tragedy is only one incident away and the UK government are putting lives at risk.
“Oil tankers, large bulk-carriers and even nuclear submarines regularly use the waters of Scotland’s west coast and if the UK government won’t provide adequate safety vessels to protect shipping here, then they should move immediately to devolve control of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to the Scottish Parliament.”