Whiteford backs councillors' calls to protect Night Watchmen

Eilidh Whiteford pictured with John Clark of the Reliance.
Eilidh Whiteford pictured with John Clark of the Reliance.

Aberdeenshire Councillors have overwhelmingly called for the Night Watchmen service at Macduff Harbour to be retained.

A final decision is due to be made by the council's director of infrastructure Stephen Archer next week.

But the comments received from members of the Infrastructure Services Committee earlier this week backed calls already made by fishermen to retain the watchmen.

A bid by Aberdeenshire Council to ditch the post sparked outrage in the local fishing industry amidst concerns it would leave vessels unprotected in the evenings.

Earlier this month, SNP candidate for Banff and Buchan Eilidh Whiteford joined local fisherman John Clark to see for herself the importance of the watchmen, and the challenges of piloting commercial vessels safely into Macduff Harbour.

A petition by Mr Clark against the proposals has already amassed more than 1,000 signatures.

Councillor Ross Cassie, who represents the Troup ward, has led calls on Aberdeenshire Council for retention of the Night Watchmen, bringing the issue before the Nfrastructure Services Committee.

He said: “The council officers now need to listen to the democratic mandate of elected councillors who have made their views clear.

“This is primarily a safety issue which the council cannot afford to ignore. There was resounding agreement that the Night Watchmen should be retained.

“The ramifications of removing the Night Watchmen would also have a detrimental economic impact on progress to regenerate Macduff, with the harbour at the heart of those plans."

Commenting Eilidh Whiteford said: “This is primarily a safety issue. Earlier this month I went out on John Clark's boat to see at first-hand the necessity of having Night Watchmen at Macduff, which is still a working commercial port."

“Even in daylight with perfect weather conditions, the entrance to Macduff Harbour is challenging for vessels, and the harbour entrance can also be deceiving for skippers less familiar with the port, due to the remnants of the old harbour wall. Vessels need onshore assistance to berth safely.

“But this is also an economic issue because landings in Macduff have greatly increased since landing restrictions were lifted last year. It has helped hugely towards regenerating economic activity in the town and removing the Night Watchmen would only hinder this promising development.”