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MISSING; ALL TALK POLITICIANS SLATED BY RIVALS None of SNP's five Highland MPs turn up for meetings about saving last emergency Coastguard tug in north INACTION Lack of tug cited as key factor that led to massive oil rig being washed ashore on a Lewis beach last week.

Byline: TORCUIL CRICHTON Westminster Editor

SNP MPs failed to turn up to a series of crucial meetings to save the last remaining emergency Coastguard tug in the north of Scotland.

None of the party's five Highlands and Islands MPs attended any of the three meetings in Edinburgh earlier this year that resulted in the Coastguard vessel in Orkney being retained.

The lack of a second tug based in the Western Isles, after it was cut by the Tories in 2012, is cited as one of the factors that led to the 17,000-ton Transocean Winner oil rig being washed ashore on Lewis last week.

Yet despite widespread concern that the only remaining tug, in Orkney, was also to be withdrawn - and an ongoing campaign to reinstate the second tug - SNP MPs did not take part in the specially organised events to consider the issue.

Councils, politicians, marine consultants and Coastguard officials attended the talks, which resulted in a U-turn from the Marine Coastguard Agency.

A risk assessment on withdrawing the last tug was heavily slated in the meetings and a second report commissioned accepted that a two-tug solution is the best option.

But Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, whose constituencies border the danger zone where a tug is needed most, didn't attend.

When comes the graft SNP nowhere be IAN MURRAY Angus MacNeil's office said that he was in London on parliamentary business on the days of the tug meetings.

An SNP spokesman said that on February 10 - the day of the first Edinburgh meeting - MacNeil attended the Commons energy and climate change committee, which sat in private for a briefing from the International Energy Agency. And on May 25 - the day of the final tug meeting - MacNeil, who has said the rig incident underlined the need for two emergency tugs, held an evidence session for the committee on Brexit.

According to minutes obtained found by the Daily Record, Caithness and Sutherland MP Paul Monaghan indicated he could not attend one meeting.

Inverness MP Drew Hendry sent a constituency team member to all three of the tug meetings.

Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O'Hara did not attend any of the meetings either.

Scottish Labour's Ian Murray MP said: "The SNP are very good at issuing press releases and creating a fuss but when it comes to the hard graft they are nowhere to be found.

"Constituents on the west coast will be rightly disappointed that, when it matters most, their local SNP representatives are posted missing."

The SNP last night insisted the five MPs have repeatedly called on the UK Government to address the tugs issue but had been caught up in parlimentary business in London.

A spokesman said: "There were Westminster debates, votes and business on those dates and the SNP are the only effective opposition to the Tories at Westminster.

"However, to suggest that SNP MPs have not lead on this issue is to fly in the face of reality and fact.

"The SNP have had a special Westminster Hall debate, have consistently kept the pressure up on the UK Government in departmental questions and have met the UK Transport Minister to press the case.

"Our position is very clear, we want to see a return to the pre-2010 situation when there were two emergency towing vessels operating in Scottish waters."

The three meetings came about following pressure from Highland Council and the Northern and Western Isles.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael was at two. The Lib Dem said: "I was surprised that not one of the SNP MPs attended any of these meetings."

Councillors in the Western Isles have stayed mute on the issue of a second tug until the emergency with Transocean Winner oil rig is over and the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch findings are published.

When it comes to the hard graft the SNP are nowhere to be found IAN MURRAY

CAPTION(S):

FAILED TO ATTEND From left, SNP MPs Brendan O'Hara, Drew Hendry, Ian Blackford, Angus MacNeil and Paul Monaghan have all called on the UK Government to address tugs issue

EMERGENCY Transocean Winner rig. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 19, 2016
Words:695
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