Shetland’s coastguard station is vital for protecting fishermen and other seafarers and for the coalition government even to consider closing it is “totally beyond belief”, according to SIC convener Sandy Cluness.
The Shetland Times learned on Monday that the Lerwick station, which employs 20 people, had been earmarked by ministers for closure along with two other Scottish stations, although an announcement by the Department for Transport planned for yesterday was postponed.
Mr Cluness and his counterparts from other Scottish local authorities are already fighting to save the coastguard emergency tugs which the government announced in October would be axed to save money.
Mr Cluness said: “This station is absolutely vital for the protection of the hundreds of fishermen and other seafarers who regularly travel the waters around the Shetland Islands, often in the most dangerous conditions and at all times of the year.
“The station and its 20 staff have co-ordinated many important rescues of seamen and such experience and knowledge could never be replicated from the mainland. That the coalition government should even consider such a proposal, together with the removal of the emergency tug, is totally beyond belief. It simply demonstrates yet another example of this government’s failure to recognise the unique situation of these islands at an important crossroads of the North Atlantic.
“We are now entering an important phase in the development of the oil and gas fields west of Shetland which are so important to the UK’s economy. These are being undertaken in some of the most difficult circumstances ever experienced in this industry. The government itself expects to gain substantially from its share of the revenues so must in return provide the essential protection for those who are undertaking this task.”
Mr Cluness said he would be raising the issue directly with shipping minister Mike Penning when he visits Shetland next year.
“In addition I will ask the minister to accept a visit from a delegation of Highlands and Islands conveners in London, as of course the protection of those who earn their living from the sea, sometimes at the risk of life, is common to the entire region.”