Planned coastguard cuts would “seriously undermine” maritime safety, according to Shetland’s MSP Tavish Scott and his Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur.
In a joint submission to the long-running consultation into the future of the emergency service, the MSPs say Scotland should be served by at least three full time stations – Lerwick, Aberdeen and Stornoway.
They say the combined loss of the emergency tugs and the planned loss of the Nimrod long-range reconnaissance aircraft would “increase the risk of loss of life and of environmental damage”.
They add a lack of local knowledge as a result of centralisation and long distance communication links would leave mariners at “substantially greater risk than at present”.
And they reject plans by the MCA to rely more fully on the knowledge of local volunteers who operate at ground level. They insist the knowledge held by volunteers is not as instantly accessible as that held by professional officers.
The MSPs point to past experiences where volunteer numbers dropped when the Orkney station closed a decade ago.
“We are also concerned that the recruitment of local volunteers in the islands would become more difficult if they had to deal with a remote station in Aberdeen,” they state.
The MSPs point to the growth of energy, seafood and leisure traffic around the Northern and Western Isles as aspects that should be considered.
“This growth in traffic will put a greater load on the coastguards monitoring these areas of sea and make even more important the retention of the current levels of local knowledge in the professional officers.
“The economic and environmental importance of protecting the pristine environment of the Northern and Western Isles, and of the Highland coastline, … has to be taken fully into account along with its vulnerability to accidents involving hazardous cargoes in the challenging seas that surround them.”