Coastguard campaigners back calls for control of service to pass to Edinburgh

Calls for control over the coastguard service in Scotland to be passed from Westminster to Holyrood have been backed by campaigners fighting to save the Shetland station from closure.

Mike Smith of the PCS union said he supported SNP proposals for Scotland to take charge of the service north of the border.

He said he hoped the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland would do the same to help protect their coastguard services as well.

His comments came as support for the full-time retention of the Lerwick station shot up once again.

Another 800 names have been added to a petition calling for the station to be saved in the last week. That’s after another 1,300 people joined the campaign during Up-Helly-A’. There are currently 5,800 names on the list.

Meanwhile Tavish Scott said he was keen to see the devolution proposals for coastguard control developed.

“If the UK government remains determined to push ahead with their flawed plans, then the idea of devolving control over Scotland’s coastguards to Holyrood is certainly one I would want to see pursued,” he said.

Last week rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said the Scottish government was carrying out its own consultation on how the coastguard service could best be managed north of the border, including the merits of devolution to Holyrood.

The coalition government in London is already carrying out an unpopular consultation exercise, which may be extended beyond March, to establish which of the Lerwick or Stornoway coastguard stations will face the axe. The surviving station will be reduced to open only during daylight hours.

During a Scottish parliament debate last Thursday the plans were condemned by MSPs on all sides of the political divide.

Mr Scott said: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s proposals to close coastguard stations are fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn.”

He cited the death of Cunningsburgh man Neil Smith as evidence in support of retaining the Lerwick station. Local officers, he said, know local fishermen and other mariners.

A statement signed by coastguard staff Mike Smith and Alex Dodge on behalf of Save Our Coastguard said: “We wholeheartedly agree with Mr Richard Lochhead (MSP for Moray) that maritime safety – not financial savings – should be the driving force behind any review.”


Add Your Comment
  • Lee Coutts

    • February 5th, 2011 22:27

    On the 11th February the MCA chief executive Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Massey is visiting the isles and, in particular, the Lerwick Coastguard Station.
    Since December 2010 a lot of criticism has been made of the proposed MCA consultation document ‘modernising the coastguard 2010,’ of which Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Massey maintains
    ‘There will be no more lives at risk than there are now’, ‘closing the stations will not threaten services or hamper searches.’

    I disagree with the proposal and the comments made (above) and in response I created the ‘SaveShetlandCoastguard’ facebook page and now the ‘’ website. The reaction to the proposals has been amazing (how people have voiced their concerns) and the support of our campaign to STOP the closure has been phenomenal!! We, the community, of Shetland now have an opportunity to let the ‘Top Man’ behind the proposals know how we feel and how loud our voices can be.
    I am asking if you will, now, join me in protest against this ridiculous document and let the MCA know this will not be accepted.
    Our community has ferry, tug and pilot boat crews, fishermen, oil workers, tour boat operators and pleasure boat owners (to name but a few) who all respect and rely on the knowledge that the coastguard are there and also not to forget the families and friends of these people who are also glad of the work of our local coastguard station.
    These cuts have been announced at a time of recovery from recession, along with the planned removal of the, now familiar sight around our shores, coastguard emergency towing vessel, also the much publicised closures of Scotland’s RAF bases and the uncertainty around the SAR helicopter services around the country. All these proposed closures/cuts have been delivered to us separately but they all lead to one fundamental issue – LIVES ARE AT GREATER RISK AND LIVES WILL BE LOST.
    One possible scenario could be – Shetland coastguard has closed, the RAF bases are closed, there is no coastguard emergency towing vessel and there is a communication failure between Shetland and the rest of the world. A ship is in distress and nobody available on VHF 16. The ship tries to use a Sat-Phone but there is no power (due to the nature of the distress). There is no nimrod flying overhead. So the ship is left to set off its EPIRB (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon) and hoping the signal has been received by someone but the ship will still not know if anyone has heard their plea. They have nobody to talk to and they are stranded not knowing if anyone is on the way to save them…….
    This could be your family, friends or even yourself.
    We need as many people as possible who are willing to come and protest our disapproval (for it to be effective) but I strongly urge as many as possible to join us as the more of us there are the bigger the impression we will make on Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Massey.
    We will be meeting up near the Coastguard Station at 8:30 am on Friday 11th. I only ask that you bring a poster (which can be printed from the website) or banner and your voices. (maybe even a flask of tea or coffee)

    ‘I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
    – Oliver Wendell Holmes’

    Lee Coutts



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