Council leaders off to London to lobby against coastguard station closures
A hard-hitting document arguing against coastguard closures will today be presented to shipping minister Mike Penning.
Council leaders from Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and Highland will use the 33-page dossier to put the case for closure-threatened stations in Lerwick and Stornoway at a meeting with the minister in London.
The six-man delegation heading south will be made up of SIC convener Sandy Cluness, assistant chief executive Willie Shannon, Western Isles leader Angus Campbell and chief executive Malcolm Burr, Orkney council leader Stephen Hagan and leader of Highland Council Michael Foxley.
A dozen other organisations, apart from the councils, have also had a hand in drawing together the detailed report.
Environmental group Kimo, Lerwick Port Authority, Shetland Fishermen’s Association and Shetland Aquaculture are among the bodies which have become involved.
The meeting comes ahead of a visit to the Lerwick station later this week from MCA chief executive Sir Alan Massey.
Campaigners are preparing to congregate outside the Knab Road station to protest in time for his arrival on Friday.
Meanwhile the document being presented to Mr Penning will be made available on the council’s website.
Mr Cluness said: “As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the communities affected by the proposed cuts are totally united in their opposition. I’m sure Sir Alan Massey will see further evidence of that when he comes up to Lerwick on Friday.
“This afternoon provides us with a chance to put our case direct to the shipping minister. We will be strongly urging him to rethink the whole proposal.
“As I’ve said before, where they are looking at cutting coastguard services in areas like these, they are effectively dealing about life and death.
“I note with dismay that Sir Alan Massey has said the coastguard service needs to be brought into the 21st century and that operations can be delivered more efficiently under these proposals.
“It’s quite clear that the importance of local knowledge and the fragile communications we suffer from here in Shetland aren’t being factored in at all.”