Calls for Westminster coastguard debate

A Westminster debate should be held to help determine whether coastguard services should be devolved to Holyrood.

The calls are being made following UK government cuts to coastguard centres, which almost resulted in the closure of Lerwick’s Knab Road headquarters.

Highlands and Islands MSP Mike MacKenzie says devolving power would help provide a “joined up” approach to shipping and harbour policies, and has backed calls made from his Western Isles counterpart, Angus MacNeil.

The Scottish government has called for full responsibility for maritime transport in its submission to the Smith Commission.

Mr MacKenzie  said: “I am delighted that my colleague Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil is seeking a debate in Westminster on the devolution of power over our coastguards to the Scottish Parliament.

“The Scottish government has called for full responsibility for maritime transport in its submission to the Smith Commission, which would enable Scotland to shape the future role of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and take responsibility for coastguard functions.

“Along with the responsibilities for the operation of the Northern Lighthouse Board, devolving the power over coastguards would provide a joined-up approach to shipping and harbour policies and enhance confidence and job creation incentives in sectors such as renewables, fishing and oil and gas.”

Recent figures show critical levels of understaffing across Scotland and the worst affected area in the UK was Aberdeen – which had 97 per cent of shifts in September failing to meet the agreed minimum risk assessed level of workers.

The Lerwick station did not fare as badly, but it has still had its share of staffing problems, with 17 watches undermanned during October.


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