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Highlands and Islands Greens
Highlands and Islands Greens

Call for Early Warning System on Anniversary of Uist Tragedy

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

One year on from the terrible storm of January 11 2006 in which five died on South Uist, Eleanor Scott, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has hit out at the failure of the Scottish Executive to implement an early warning system for coastal flooding.

Dr Scott said: “I am asking the Scottish Parliament today to remember those who tragically lost their lives and to send sympathies to their relatives and friends.  It is important that we consider whether enough has been done to ensure such avoidable loss of life does not happen again, but I am concerned that this is not the case.”

Dr Scott has lodged a motion in Parliament commemorating the deaths of five members of the MacPherson/Campbell family, and welcoming the progress that has so far been made towards improving storm defences in the Western Isles.  However, she also noted that some of the measures identified as necessary by the South Uist community have not yet been put in place, including an early warning system for tidal surges.

Dr Scott said: “I welcome the funds from the Scottish Executive towards better flood defences and the commitment by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to a study of the Stoneybridge Shingle Bank, but I know many people believe that the authorities have not acted quickly enough to enable vulnerable communities to feel secure in the face of this winter’s storms.  An early warning system that predicts whether a big storm will cause a tidal surge is vital to ensure people have time to make their way to safety if their homes are threatened by flooding.

“More encouragement and support also needs to be given to communities that want to develop natural storm defences, like strengthening dunes with marram grass plantings and willow and birch hurdles.

“I have asked a series of questions in Parliament about these issues and the Ministers’ answers leave something to be desired.  As far as an early warning system goes, I am pleased to learn that there is now a ‘pilot’ involvement by Scotland in the Storm Tide Forecasting Service provided for England and Wales.  However, we urgently need full implementation of such a system around the entire coastline of Scotland.

“The severe weather events like the storm a year ago are predicted to become more frequent and dangerous as a result of climate change.  I hope this sad anniversary acts as a reminder of why climate change must remain a top priority issue.”

Notes

(1) The text of Dr Scott’s motion is as follows:

Coastal Flood Protection

That the Parliament notes the first anniversary of the deaths of five members of the MacPherson/Campbell family on South Uist on January 11 2005 as a result of a severe storm and sends heart-felt sympathies to relatives and friends of the families; welcomes the funding package from the Executive which, according Hugh Henry’s reply to written question S2W-19378, amounts to £9 million; welcomes the final agreement by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to a study of the Stoneybridge Shingle Bank and other vulnerable coastal areas with a view to giving recommendations as to an appropriate, costed engineered solution, eligible, hopefully, for grant aid under the 1949 Coastal Protection Act; calls on all coastal local authorities to consider providing specific support for communities to develop and protect natural storm defences; and calls for a speedy installation of an early coastal flood warning system to prevent further avoidable loss of life.