Parliamentary questions have revealed that a temporary contract to provide emergency towing vessel cover, after the UK Government withdrew support for the permanent service in the name of cost cutting, is actually costing the taxpayer £80,000/month more than the original service.
Last week the Scotland Office announced a U-turn on the decision to withdraw funding for the lifeline service and launched a new procurement process for a reduced, single vessel cover. In the meantime, taxpayers will continue to pay for the temporary contract which was introduced last October.
The figures show that it cost £3,783,212 to temporarily reinstate the tug service for seven and half months after the original service was terminated last October. The average monthly payment was more than
£80,000 higher than in 2010/11 when the total full-year contract cost £5,048,743.
SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil, who led the campaign against withdrawal of the service, said the Scotland Office still had questions to answer over the fiasco. Mr MacNeil pointed out that Ministers had not confirmed if cancellation of the original contract incurred any penalties.
Mr MacNeil said:
“Only Westminster could make cuts in the name of cost cutting but, after two years of uncertainty, land taxpayers with an even bigger bill for half the service.
“This has been a farce from start to finish and the Scotland Office still have serious questions to answer – whether, for example, cancellation of the original contract incurred any penalties.
“If the UK Government had listened to our warnings two years ago all of this cost and risk could have been avoided. We have been left with half the service we previously had to patrol Scotland’s 10,000km of coastline.
“From small issues like pasties to big issues like the future of emergency towing vessels in our waters, the UK Government is making really bad decisions. We would make better decisions in Scotland and not leave it to Westminster.”
Hebrides Today brings you the latest news from the Western Isles