Coastguard consultation extended as minister announces visit to Shetland

The consultation period into the future of the coastguard service has been extended by six weeks to allow a greater number of views to be submitted.

However the new deadline for submissions regarding the un­popular proposals now clashes with the Scottish parliamentary elections on 5th May.

Shipping minister Mike Penning today told MPs there was now more time for people to give their input.

He is due to visit Shetland next week, on either Wednesday or Thursday, as part of a tour of the Western and Northern Isles.

Under the proposals either Ler­wick or Stornoway could close, leaving the surviving unit to open during only daylight hours. The only full-time station, or maritime operational centre (MOC), in Scotland would be in Aberdeen.

News of the extension received a mixed reaction from campaigners fighting to save the Lerwick station from closure.

Alex Dodge, of Save Our Coast­guard, feared the issue may be lost in the build-up to the elections to the Scottish Parliament.

She also criticised MCA officials for not directly telling staff of the change.

“We have mixed feelings. It means more people have a chance to respond to this document, but the closing date is right in the middle of the Scottish elections. It’s after the closing date for submissions to the transport committee on 24th April.”

It came at the end of a week which saw the SIC agree to investi­gate the possibility of a judicial challenge to the coalition govern­ment’s decision to axe the coastguard tugs.

Councillors were warned all hopes of saving the emergency tug vessels, or ETVs, in their current form were now lost during a special SIC meeting in Lerwick Town Hall on Tuesday.


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