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A Lochaber councillor has labelled the recent collapse of The Underwater Centre in Fort William as ‘a national disgrace’.
Councillor Allan Henderson expressed frustration that public and industry bodies were unable to prevent the subsea training from closing, after the subject was raised at Monday’s Lochaber Ideas Week Question Time debate.
Mr Henderson’s comments come after 48 jobs were lost last month when the diver training and trials facility in Fort William was forced to cease trading and placed into administration.
The Caol and Mallaig councillor said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ to hear the news of the centre’s closure.
He said: ‘This isn’t an issue with a lack of skills, The Underwater Centre has some of the highest skilled staff members in the area. A lot of it has to do with the political situation which has made it very difficult.’
He continued: ‘It’s not a Scottish problem, this is a national problem, and we are allowing it to fail at this moment in time. It’s a national disgrace.’
Mr Henderson also explained it would cost ‘a relatively small amount’ to keep the centre operational compared to the money needed to build a new subsea training centre – which he said either the government or industry will have to shoulder when the demand for divers inevitably picks up.
The news of The Underwater Centre’s collapse came just five months after a deal was announced to restructure The Underwater Centre which saw industry and public bodies, including Subsea 7, TechnipFMC, Premier Oil, Oil & Gas UK, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), collaborating to support the diver training centre – one of only two places in the world which provides closed-bell diver training.
CEO of HIE, Charlotte Wright, said: ‘The industry works in a cycle of boom and bust and while we are in a very difficult period at the moment, I remain confident there can be a future for The Underwater Centre. Otherwise someone else will have to come in and recreate it which will cost millions.’