The Transocean Winner oil rig grounding on the exposed and inhospitable coast at Dalmore on the Isle of Lewis has brought from the local MP, Angus Macneil, the depressingly-predictable response of a man with an inflexible Nationalist mindset. He has laid all blame and responsibility for allowing the oil rig to ground with the UK government. Case closed.
The rest of us, however, were under the impression that a ship’s master is responsible for the safety of their vessel, its crew, cargo and any other vessel under tow. The captain has the final decision on what course of action in the interests of a safe passage is best suited to the prevailing weather conditions.
In this case its rather obvious that the Transocean Winner towing operation got into difficulties without any interference from the UK government. It’s also obvious that once the apparently inadequate towing arrangement failed it was virtually impossible to prevent the oil rig from being blown ashore.
So with what twisted logic does Angus Macneil lay the blame with the UK government. ?
Presumably he was expecting Theresa May to have been woken and informed of the imminent danger. Whereupon she summoned a super hero of the James Bond variety who would have arrived on the scene just in the nick of time to avert disaster.
This comic book plot would seem to have been the only way the UK government could have prevented the rig from grounding, which tells us much about Mr Macneil’s choice of reading. An Emergency Towing Vessel ( ETV) stationed in Stornoway, would have been of little help in this instance because of the reasons mentioned earlier. Despite this, I fully support the calls for the reinstatement of the Stornoway ETV, which may be of assistance in some future marine incident. However,the risk of a similar or more catastrophic grounding can only be reduced but never entirely eliminated as long as ships go to sea
Putting further pressure on the UK Tory government to provide funding for a Stornoway-based ETV is futile. The Tories have nothing to lose electorally from the lack of a tug, as it doesn’t affect many of their core voters who are few and far between in Scotland’s west coast communities. Likewise, the petition started by two local SNP councillors calling for a Stornoway-based tug will be about as useful as a severed tow line
An alternative potential solution would be for the SNP Holyrood government to provide annual funding for a ETV to patrol Scotland’s western coastline, and then send the bill to the Tory government.
Does the staid and uninspiring SNP government have the will or imagination to try a more radical approach? Or would both it and Mr Macneil prefer to keep the lack of a tug as another convenient grudge to continue holding against the UK government? The time has now arrived for the SNP Holyrood administration to end their posturing on the Stornoway ETV and either put up or shut up.
Iain M Macdonald
Miavaig, Isle of Lewis