Politicians in northeast Scotland have called on the chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council, Jim Savege, to reconsider proposed plans to axe night watchmen at Macduff harbour.
Both Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have written to Jim Savege about the issue, after concerns were raised by a number of groups and constituents.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford said the move would be a ‘retrograde step’ by the local authority.
Meanwhile, Mr Stevenson said removal of the watchmen would ‘undermine’ the progress made at Macduff harbour in recent years.
Four months ago, an agreement was reached between Macduff Harbour and Marine Scotland to relax designated port status regulations that have been in force for more than a decade. Due to the logistical importance of Macduff, Marine Scotland now allows vessels to land larger volumes of fish, including sensitive species, when using harbour facilities, including the multi-berth slipway.
As well as being the home port of a large number of locally-owned vessels, Macduff harbour is one of the busiest boat maintenance centres in Scotland. Vessels from Shetland, Western Isles, Devon and Ireland, in addition to the local fleet, regularly make good use of the extensive range of quayside service facilities available. As well as generating additional revenue for the harbour, the continual demand for refit and maintenance work also provides valuable employment and socio-economic stability for the local community.
Concerns about staffing levels were raised after proposals were put forward to replace the night watchmen at Macduff with CCTV.
The issue has already raised concern from the Scottish White Fish Association (SWFA), which represents more than 1,400 fishermen across Scotland.
The harbour currently has two watchmen who monitor boats in the harbour, as well as the arrival and departure of fishing vessels.
In a letter to Mr Savege, Dr Whiteford said that while she understood Aberdeenshire Council was looking to make cost savings, it would be a ‘retrograde step’ in the ‘continued revival of Macduff as a fishing port’.
Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said: “I have written to Mr Savege to ask for this matter to be reconsidered.
“Macduff Port has gone through a number of transformational changes, and it would be a step backwards to implement CCTV rather than retain the watchmen.
“We must not risk all the commendable work which has already taken place to help make necessary improvement to the region.”
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “Due to legislation surrounding landings at Macduff, there has been a significant increase to the effect that January and February landings exceeded the landings of the entire previous financial year.
“From all the information I have been given, it is clear that removal of the watchmen would have a negative effect on the use of the harbour, as boats would no longer have the facility to speak to the watch regarding the available draft, or for assistance in tying up.
“It would be particularly unhelpful if the positive progress made in the past couple of years by the council in developing the harbour were to be undermined by the removal of the watch facility.”
Read more from Fishing News here.