Harbour storm damage whips up funding row
STORM Ciara has created a row in its wake over the level of investment in Moray's council-run harbours.
The high winds and rain which battered the country have left the pontoons at Findochty Harbour inaccessible due to damage inflicted on them.
It has prompted Buckie Tory councillor Tim Eagle to criticise what he believes is a lack of investment in the local authority's six harbours, this failure leaving boat-owners feeling abandoned as the conditions in some of the harbours continues to deteriorate.
Councillor Eagle said : “This is not just about a bad storm causing accidental damage, this is about the council being unable to maintain vital local infrastructure.
"I have been told since I became a councillor that the pontoons in Findochty needed not just replacing, but potentially more put in to allow for better use of the harbour. Yet very little has been done.
“Because of this lack of investment in our important and historic harbours we are now seeing pontoons falling apart during bad weather leaving local boat owners unable to reach their boats.
“I have spoken with council officers who are looking to get quotes to fix this early [this] week and, whilst I am pleased that this promises at least some action, it does not take away from the fact that villages like Findochty and others along the Moray Firth, are being left abandoned and underfunded by an SNP government which fails to care about anything other than its obsession with independence.
“Tomorrow [Wednesday, February 12, council budget day] I will have to sit in the chamber again as I watch the SNP administration make even more cuts to our front-line services due to the continued squeeze being applied by the Scottish Government.
“The real cheek is that some of the most damaging proposals are being hidden away in the confidential section of the papers so they are not available to public scrutiny.
“I will continue to push that the Findochty pontoon is fixed as quickly as possible but this is a reminder of the much bigger problem Moray faces.”
Buckie SNP councillor Sonya Warren said she sympathised with the plight some boatowners found themselves in, but underlined that harbour funding was a part of a bigger financial picture in what were straitened times for local authorities.
"It's understandable that harbour users are impatient to get a more positive solution for the pontoons, especially after so may previous years of neglect," she said.
"However, this needs both time and finance.
"It's always a challenge to balance the needs of harbour users with the competing demands of other facilities. many service areas in the council need considerable investment, such as schools and roads.
"We need to take this opportunity to review the urgency and importance of this project and assess priorities with current information in relation to other projects."