A public meeting is to be held tonight (Thursday) in Carloway hosted by Hugh Shaw, the government’s salvage advisor and oil rig owners Transocean.
The meeting comes three days after a public meeting in the same venue in which both were invited but did not attend much to the disappointment of a packed Carloway Community Centre.
Representatives from Smit Salvage, the local multi-agency emergency planning group, WIEPCG, local police and coastguard will also be in attendance at the meeting regarding the stricken oil rig which remains stranded on headland at Dalmore Beach.
The original meeting on Monday night was attended only by Alasdair Allan MSP, and representatives from Police Scotland and the Comhairle.
Carloway Community Association chairman Don Mackay explained all parties had been invited several times but neglected to do so instead organising a later meeting of their own – a move he described as ‘regrettable’ but one which one furious Carloway resident on the floor labelled ‘an insult to the people of the district.’
Joining Allan on the forum were Inspector Roddie Mackay of Police Scotland and councillor Donald ‘Cudig’ Macleod as they each did their best to answer questions from the floor which had more than 80 residents packed in.
Alasdair Allan admitted he too was disappointed not to have the opportunity to ask questions which have been raised by constituents as he described the incident as a ‘stark demonstration of the need for an emergency towing vessel based in the Western Isles.’
Among the concerns raised from the floor was by the owner of a local surfing business who explained the impact of the closure of Dalmore Beach on his business and on the wider surfing community.
Inspector Roddie Mackay spoke at length about the need for restricted access as he recalled opening the road temporarily to the public which caused traffic chaos and became an issue for public safety.
The ongoing public safety concerns regarding people clambering over coastal paths and cliff faces for views of the rig were again discussed with Councillor Macleod imploring people to use common sense.
“I wish people would stop taking to the hills,” he told the meeting.
“Just the other night I had to chase people away from a field with a bull and cows in it. When people enter a field full of cows like that the bull thinks they are coming to take his girls away.
“Seriously people need to understand the limits for safety and stop taking their lives in their hands.
“It is horrendous the risks people are taking to get a picture of an oil rig.”
On the concerns of the lasting pollution effects of the confirmed loss of 50 tonnes of diesel, the MSP said the information is that diesel can be broken down in the water and doesn’t have the effect on the coast line or wildlife as the likes of crude oil would have. He confirmed that sample tests are ongoing daily along the coast and into Loch Roag.
Claims from the floor that the local supply chain had been ignored in the salvage operation were dismissed by Councillor Macleod who was adamant that a number of island businesses were being used to their capacity although one member of the public disagreed claiming islanders had ‘more to offer than delivering packages or making sandwiches.’
Another member of the local Carloway community countered that claim by saying that while the beaching of the rig was ‘unfortunate’ it has provided ‘a fantastic boost to the island economy.’
Other suggestions to come on a passionate night were for the Transocean Winner to be scrapped locally at Arnish, thus creating a number of local jobs and remove the need for the rig to once again be towed halfway across Europe when it is already damaged.
Serious concerns were also raised by Duncan Macinnes of Western Isles Fisheries who described it as ‘an accident waiting to happen.’
“From the fishing industry point of view, we want them to go through the Minch with compulsory pilotage,” he said.
“If this had been an oil tanker there would have been utter devastation and we remain concerned there could be chemicals on board within the generators and other areas which may not have been removed yet.”
Mr Macinnes also discussed the prospect of compensation for fisherman who are unable to fish due to the ongoing 300 metre exclusion zone around the rig.
The meeting hosted by Mr Hugh Shaw and Transocean will take place tonight at 8pm in the Carloway Community Centre.