Coastguard workers drummed up support for their campaign to save the Lerwick station from closure during today’s Up-Helly-A’ celebrations.
Staff and volunteers urged more people to sign a petition against government proposals to close either the Shetland or Stornoway station and leave the surviving unit to work on reduced hours. Guizer Jarl John Hunter was among those to sign.
They camped near the Bank of Scotland on Commercial Street, from where passers-by signed up to the campaign and asked questions about the agency’s consultation process.
So far the Save Our Station petition has gathered 3,700 signatures on paper and online.
Mike Smith of the PCS union said he was impressed by the level of support so far, but urged more people to add their names to the list.
“Campaigners have been busy this week. Support is coming in from the lifeboat crew, ferry and fishing boat crews and across the Orkney and Shetland communities.
“Ex-pat islander supporters are as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the USA. The Save Our Station/Save Shetland Coastguard petition (paper and online) has about 3,700 signatures.
“This is very much appreciated, but we’d like more – the combined population of Orkney and Shetland is approximately 47,000.”
He said colleagues at other coastguard stations were working hard, too, to fend off the possible closure.
A “home network” has been set up across the UK to share ideas and co-ordinate the campaign.
The hope is to maintain the pressure until the transport select committee quizzes MCA executives next month.
Meanwhile Shetland MSP Tavish Scott will be taking part in a Scottish Parliament debate on the closure plans on Thursday.
He seized on attempts by agency management to explain the plans to worried staff members as “flawed”.
Last week the MCA’s top man in Scotland, Bill McFadyen, regional director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, gave a presentation on the proposals in Lerwick and answered questions.
Mr Scott said: “The consultation is so fundamentally flawed that it should simply be withdrawn. The latest attempt by MCA management to explain their flawed proposals in Lerwick this week utterly failed to convince anyone that they had thought this through in detail. The proposals as currently constituted would, far from helping safety at sea, jeopardise safety at sea.
“I hope the Parliament supports the argument for having the MCA withdraw their flawed proposals.”