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“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s proposals to close coastguard stations are fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn.”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