Editorial: The Old Rock 15.07.11

When the goverment announced last December that it intended to close either Lerwick or Stornoway coastguard station and keep the survivor open during daylight only it provoked incredulity in this community, followed by justifiable anger.

Shetland then showed itself in its best light by getting full-square behind the campaign, set off by the estimable ferryman Lee Coutts, amassing considerable support in tandem with the Western Isles against a futile attempt by the Tory transport minister to divide and rule. The PCS union, Mr Coutts, Shetland Islands Council and the community generally can be justifiably proud of the outcome that was officially announced yesterday. It is proof that in politics reasoned argument and a solid case can change opinions, even dogmatic ones.

Mention should also be made of the role of isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Whatever one thinks of his membership of the coalition, had it not been for his intervention before the original proposals were published Shetland coastguard station would now be in the process of closing. In his role of government whip, he has successfully argued against the compromise proposal of closing either Shetland or Lewis, no mean feat given the political ideology of hard-headed transport minister Philip Hammond.

Sadly, coastguard staff in Shetland will now have to re-apply for their jobs. Given all that they have been through, this would seem to be an unnecessary measure.

For the forseeable future at least, and fittingly given the arrival over the horizon this weekend of the first of the tall ships ahead of next weekend’s big event in Lerwick, Shetland will have a coastguard station, the only sensible outcome for this seaward-looking community.


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