I am writing on behalf of Shetland Youth Voice, Shetland’s local youth forum. I would like to express the disapproval of many of Shetland’s young people regarding the government’s recent plans to close coastguard stations around the UK.
Shetland Youth Voice is firmly against the government’s proposal to close Shetland’s coastguard station. These plans are clearly part of a strategy that aims to save money. In modernising the system, the government is going to risk lives. Both the Lerwick and Stornoway coastguard services are vital to the safety of the people who travel and work in the waters around the isles.
The coastline of Shetland is dangerous and complex. A mainland counterpart could not replace the knowledge of the local waters that our coastguard team has built up through years of experience. The Shetland coastguard covers 36,000 square miles of sea. This vast area is not only occupied and used by Shetland boats, but boats of many different nationalities. Emergency services are vital to the safety of these seamen.
Land-based emergency services such as ambulances and fire services would not be closed in such a way, yet they have the same purpose: to protect lives.
It has been announced that the services that do remain open will only operate during the day. Accidents are not limited to daylight hours; the sea can often be more dangerous at night. It would be short sighted to assume that coastguard services are only needed during the day.
The Western Isles and the Northern Isles are very different places, with very different conditions and problems to face. The government should take into account not only the needs of an island community but the 210 miles that separates Lerwick from Aberdeen. With the proposed removal of the tug that offered re-assurance to those working in the waters around Shetland, the coastguard is a necessity.
In the consultation report, the coastguard service was said to generate higher than necessary staffing costs due to the uneven workload. Emergency services for small communities such as Shetland will not constantly be in demand but this does not mean that they are not needed. Lives should not be put at risk to save money and Shetland Youth Voice will strongly resist any attempt to remove Shetland’s coastguard service.
On behalf of Shetland Youth Voice