UK shipping minister Mike Penning is listening to people’s concerns about the future of Shetland’s coastguard station, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.
Mr Penning confirmed to MPs on Thursday that no decision on the future of the station will be taken until a transport select committee inquiry has been completed.
The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government, in which Mr Carmichael serves, has proposed shutting either Lerwick or Stornoway’s station, leaving the surviving unit to operate during daytime hours only. Aberdeen would then host the only 24-hour station in Scotland.
Public opposition has been huge, with more than 12,500 people in Shetland and Orkney signing a petition against the proposed closure.
Mr Carmichael said today: “While there was never any question of ministers ignoring the ongoing select committee inquiry, Mr Penning’s undertaking is nevertheless welcome news.
“I think what came through strongly from the debate was that this is a genuine consultation and substantial amendment of the proposals that have been put forward is by no means out of the question.”
Mr Penning visited Shetland last week to hear local concerns first hand. Mr Carmichael said he was pleased the minister “referred specifically to his recent visit” during Thursday’s parliamentary debate and “touched upon a number of the concerns that local coastguard staff raised”.
He added: “As I have maintained since the start of this process, we should not oppose reforms for fear of change. However, it is only right that everyone with an interest in the future of the coastguard has the opportunity to comment on the proposals that have been put forward.
“The minister made clear that he is committed to the consultation process and is listening to the arguments that people in Shetland and elsewhere are making.”