Shetland Coastguard staff have accused their employers and the government of trying to silence them after they were barred from giving evidence to the House of Commons transport select committee in Stornoway next week.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Sir Alan Massey informed campaigners late yesterday that they would not be able to participate in the oral evidence session, apparently on the advice of government ministers.
Bob Skinley of the local branch of the PCS Union said: “We are very disappointed and indeed angry at being silenced in this way. Clearly both the MCA and the government are fearful of what we might say about these dangerous, ill-informed and ill-thought out plans that seek to devastate the coastguard as we know it. Clearly, ‘freedom of speech’ does not exist if you are a civil servant. Is their case so weak that it cannot withstand public debate?”
Representatives from Shetland Coastguard will be travelling to Stornoway for the meeting next Thursday regardless as they will have a brief opportunity to talk to MPs on the select committee in private before they begin their public evidence sessions.
Mr Skinley said the opportunity to give formal evidence before the committee had been welcome news and to be denied that opportunity at this late hour was little short of scandalous.
Representatives of Shetland Islands Council will be giving evidence to the committee.
The committee is holding two sessions, one in Stornoway and the other in Falmouth, prior to producing its report some time in the summer.