MSP Column - concerns about ETV and jobs in the Uists

The Western Isles are making the national news this week for reasons that none of us would have chosen but many of us, sadly, expected at some stage.

The oil rig which has been dominating the landscape at Dalmore in recent days is a shock, but is one which this community has warned about since the decision of the UK Government to remove the Emergency Towing Vessel based on Scotland’s west coast some years ago.

I have met with the coastguard and emergency services on site and, as I write this am heading for Carloway for the public meeting being held there.

People have very real questions about how this happened, and how any similar incident - potentially with a vessel carrying large quantities of oil - can be avoided in future.

Anyone with specific issues they want me to take up with the rig’s owners or the salvers are welcome to contact me directly.

Meanwhile, the business of government doesn’t stop just because Parliament isn’t sitting, and neither does work in the constituency.

Recent days have taken me to Uist and Harris, with a visit to Barra coming up in the next few days.

Uist jobs

In Uist, there has been an obvious cause for concern recently, following the announcement by QinetiQ that 15 jobs in Uist are in question. Hebrides Range continues to be of huge economic importance to Uist, and so this is something I have taken up with the company, as well as with HIE.

Lews Castle

I have also had a chance, along with many thousands of others, to visit Lews Castle since its reopening recently.

I have visited the the castle when it was derelict, when it was a building site, and when the museum was being set up.

The opening of the Castle represents a major investment in the culture and tourism of the islands, and at last creates a long-term island home for at least some of the world- famous Lewis chessmen.

It also creates a worthy setting for the islands museum and archives, and a spectacular venue for local events.