Coastguard chief and shipping minister to be questioned at select committee

Searching questions on proposed coastguard cuts will be asked of MCA chief executive, Sir Alan Massey, and shipping minister Mike Penning, when they appear before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee on Tuesday.

The select committee meeting follows Thursday’s day of evidence gathering in Stornoway, which gave Shetland coastguard staff the chance to put across their fears over the planned changes.

PCS Union members Alex Dodge and Bob Skinley represented their colleagues at the oral evidence session, despite attempts last week by MCA management to prevent them from giving evidence. Also present were colleagues and fellow PCS representatives Murdo Macaulay and Carol Collins from Stornoway coastguard.

Mrs Dodge told The Shetland Times: “We are encouraged with the reception we have had from the Transport Select Committee, and I feel that they are on our side. Louise Ellman [chairwoman of the committee] will ask serious questions of Sir Alan Massey and Mike Penning next week.

“These proposals are not about modernisation, merely about saving money. If one life is lost as a result of these proposals, that would be one too many. We’re grateful to the committee for listening to us, we hope the government and MCA management will as well and withdraw these proposals.”

Mr Skinley said: “We thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to voice the opinions of operational coastguards, a courtesy that was not afforded either to us, or our volunteer colleagues in the coast rescue service, by our own management before these ill-thought out proposals were released on 16th December. We feel we have been given a fair hearing and that our concerns have been heard loud and clear.”

The coalition government has been consulting on closing coastguard stations across the country. A long-running row has been going on since it proposed closing either Lerwick or Stornoway station and leaving the surviving unit to operate only in daylight hours. Under the plans, the one remaining 24-hour station left in Scotland would be in Aberdeen.

Last month The Shetland Times learned the Lerwick station had been saved from closure amid fears communication links would not be strong enough under the MCA’s plans, although there was no word on whether it would still operate on a 24-hour basis.

Campaigners have continued their fight in the hope official word will come soon. Mrs Dodge added: “The fight still goes on until we have it in black and white what the position is.”


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