A looming “crisis” in the coastguard service has prompted MP Alistair Carmichael to call on the UK government to intervene.
He says an ongoing dispute between volunteers and senior management is threatening disruption at the Orkney and Shetland coastguard.
The MP met Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Sir Alan Massey on Wednesday to discuss the matter, understood to centre around the proposed return to work of a manager who had been suspended for a long period.
Mr Carmichael says the matter has caused a “strength of feeling” among volunteers and that he fears it could lead to “mass resignations of local volunteers”, something he pointed out to Sir Alan.
“Unfortunately it was not a particularly productive meeting and we were unable to find much common ground,” Mr Carmichael said.
“I was very disappointed by the MCA’s attitude towards volunteers, and their response to this growing crisis. My primary concern is that the coastlines of the Northern Isles should remain protected. I know that is the priority of the volunteers, that is why they do the essential work that they do.
“The MCA now need to prove that it is their priority, by working with us to find a solution, and if they can’t, then the government must.”
However, Sir Alan said he was “aware and concerned some local issues that have arisen among our volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers in Shetland and Orkney.” He added that he and colleagues were working hard to resolve the situation.
“As part of these efforts I was very pleased to meet with Mr Carmichael to understand his concerns. Our volunteers do great work for their communities, and their service is of vital importance to coastal safety around the whole of the UK.”