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Campaigners want ‘clarity’ over the future of Ayrshire fishing memorial

Confusion has raged over the future of an old boat which commemorates Ayr’s fishing industry.

The MVF Watchful has been sitting on an old slipway in Ayr’s South Harbour for around two decades.

Previous attempts to have the vessel restored have sunk without a trace.

Now campaigners, who are concerned the vessel’s condition is beyond redemption, have been left scratching their heads over differing accounts over its future from a local councillor and South Ayrshire Council.

Ayr West SNP councillor Siobhian Brown, who was recently elected as Ayr MSP, told one campaigner that a survey revealed £80,000 is needed to restore Watchful.

However, members of Facebook site Ayr Harbour Memories received a Freedom of Information response from the local authority claiming it has “never commissioned a survey” and is “not responsible” for the area it is docked on.

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Both accounts from the local authority and the Ayr West Councillor appeared to contradict each other and Ayrshire Live was asked to investigate.

In response to a query from an Ayr Harbour Memories group representative, Ms Brown said: “The council had a survey done on the boat which concluded that it would cost around £80,000 to restore.

Councillor and MSP Siobhian Brown
Councillor and MSP Siobhian Brown

“They were also told to destroy – due to the lead content (within the vessel) – it would cost £20,000 as it would need to be done by an expert.”

However, in a subsequent response to a Freedom of Information request about the survey, members were told a different story.

An officer in the council’s information governance department said the local authority “have no responsibility” for MVF Watchful, they have “never commissioned a survey” and are “not responsible” for the area it is docked on.

A spokesperson for the Ayr Harbour Memories group said: “We are just looking for some clarity on this and want to know who owns Watchful and who will take responsibility for it.

“We asked to see the survey under Freedom of Information and, apparently, no survey has ever taken place.

“Watchful came to Ayr as a memorial but decades on it’s rotten on the inside and out. It’s sad to say, but scrapping it is the best option, that’s the bottom line. If it was a dog they would put it down.”

The boat's hull has badly deteriorated
The boat’s hull has badly deteriorated

Ayr West Conservative councillor Martin Dowey had previously warned that boat was on the verge of “falling apart.”

The Watchful was built in 1955 in East Lothian by Weatherhead and Blakey.

Used as a ring-net herring boat, the vessel was decommissioned in the 1990s.

Watchful was initially berthed in Maidens but taken to Ayr to commemorate the fishermen who lost their lives at sea and to pay tribute the history of shipbuilding in the area.

Ayrshire Live can reveal a survey does exist – and a mix-up between the local authority and Ayrshire Roads Alliance is the cause for confusion.

A council spokesperson said: “The response to the FOI from Ayr Harbour Memories group came from Ayrshire Roads Alliance, who were unaware that the council carried out a survey on MVF Watchful. We will send a copy of the survey to the group.”

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