The House of Commons transport select committee has come under fire for failing to include Shetland in a tour of areas affected by coastguard station closures.
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has criticised the committee for leaving the isles out of a programme of visits as part of its ongoing inquiry into the cuts – although members do intend to travel to Stornoway to gauge the response there.
Mr Carmichael today collected a weighty box with 13,411 signatures against the planned closures from campaigners this afternoon. He will pass the petitions on to the committee chairwoman Louise Ellman.
“The campaigners have asked that I pass them [the signatures] on to the select committee on transport as an indication to them of the strength of local feeling here,” said Mr Carmichael.
“I will certainly do that. I will be in touch with Louise Ellman … with whom I have already discussed the coastguard situation informally.
“I’ll also be wanting to have a word with her about the fact the select committee are planning a visit to Stornoway, but not to Lerwick.
“The idea that you’ll find out enough about the situation in Shetland by visiting the Western Isles is a rather London-centric view, and it’s perhaps indicitive of the sort of thinking that took us to this point in the first place.”
He said the final tally of petitions – which has grown even since shipping minister Mike Penning’s visit to Shetland two weeks ago, when over 12,000 signatures were counted – showed the proposals were “unacceptable”.
Save Our Station campaigner Alex Dodge said she was “delighted” with the level of response.
She highlighted that the entire community in Fair Isle had signed the petition.
“How many petitions have there been where the whole of a community has signed it?” she asked.
She is also one of a number of union members who have been drawing up alternative proposals to the plans currently on the table, which could see either Lerwick or Stornoway station close with the surviving unit left to operate only during daylight hours.
“We are pushing for 24-7 stations with no part-time stations. We’re formalising something just now,” she said.
She confirmed as a PCS chairwoman she had sent a formal request that the transport select committee visit Shetland.
Although the petitions have been submitted there is still time to submit evidence to the consultation process, which is now running until 5th May.