By Bill Heaney

It can take anything up to an hour to travel along the A82 from Barloan Round about to Stoneymollan Roundabout above Balloch when the traffic is backed up from Dumbuck to Duck Bay at the height of summer as it was almost daily in August.

And that is why the local public and visitors to the Bonnie Banks will be astonished to find out that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service boat, which covers Loch Lomond, which is infamous for drownings, is garaged at Knightswood in Glasgow.

This revelation came from Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, left,  who told MSPs at Holyrood: “The minister [Ash  Denham] will be aware of the tragic drownings that have occurred at Loch Lomond this summer; indeed, there are tragedies every year.

“Last year, following the tragic death of Ava Gray, pictured right, I wrote to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ask it to site a rescue boat at Balloch. Its boat is currently sited at Knightswood, which, on a good day, is some 25 minutes away.

“I praise the work of the Luss rescue boat, but it is run by volunteers and Loch Lomond is 39km long, so there is a clear need to do more.

“Will the minister ensure that the location of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service boat is reviewed as a matter of urgency?”

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham, pictured right, said the the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was at a crisis meeting she had arranged early in August.

She said: “I specifically asked it to review the location of its assets for exactly the reason that Jackie Baillie mentioned and to look at future arrangements. She was right to raise the situation at Loch Lomond.

“However, there is no simple single answer to the challenge of drowning prevention. There is obviously a role for education, signage and life-saving equipment.

“All water can be dangerous, but Jackie Baillie is right to point out that there are locations where the dangers are more significant, where it is especially important that there is clear warning signage and appropriate life-saving equipment.

“I will again speak to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service about the particular incident that Jackie Baillie mentioned and will come back to her.”

Meanwhile, another Labour MSP Neil Bibby asked Ms Denham about anti-social antisocial use of quad bikes, trail bikes and other off-road vehicles in the hills and green spaces near local towns.

She told him: “I am well aware of the risk to public safety that is caused by careless, inconsiderate and antisocial driving.

“That is why I fully support Police Scotland and its partners in dealing with the misuse of vehicles in an appropriate and proportionate way.

“Local policing teams are ideally placed to engage with members of the local community to identify where the misuse of vehicles is causing distress to the public.

“That ensures that those areas can be prioritised for proactive action to prevent future instances and identify and deal with those who are engaged in the misuse of vehicles.

Neil Bibby, left,  told her: “During the summer, I have taken surgeries to the streets in my community and can tell the minister that there is growing concern about antisocial behaviour and the inappropriate use of quad bikes and other off-road vehicles, which endangers not only the rider but pedestrians and the wider public.

“Often, the people who are most affected by antisocial behaviour are the least likely to come forward with concerns.

“Will the minister meet me to discuss how we can help Police Scotland to make our communities safe and reclaim our footpaths, parks and public spaces from the dangerous, antisocial minority who are misusing those vehicles?”

The Minister replied: “I would be happy to meet the member to discuss that. On 13 March 2020, I asked my officials to write to all local authorities in Scotland to ascertain the extent to which the antisocial use of motorcycles and quad bikes was a problem in their areas and how they were addressing that.

“All 32 local authorities replied to that request. The antisocial use of motorcycles and quad bikes is not a widespread problem across Scotland, though six local authorities reported on-going problems with antisocial use of motorcycles or quad bikes in their areas and four said that that was a seasonal occurrence.”

Loch Lomond danger spots are being patrolled by Police Scotland and Park rangers.

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