Conveners take on Minister over Coastguard plans

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United in anger and outrage at proposed coastguard station closures, the leaders of four Highlands and islands councils will meet this afternoon (Monday) with Shipping Minister Mike Penning in London. 

Convener Sandy Cluness, who is leading the delegation on this issue, said “As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the communities affected by the proposed cuts are totally united in their opposition. I’m sure Sir Alan Massey will see further evidence of that when he comes up to Lerwick on Friday.

“This afternoon provides us with a chance to put our case direct to the Shipping Minister. We will be strongly urging him to rethink the whole proposal. As I’ve said before, where they are looking at cutting coastguard services in areas like these, they are effectively dealing with life and death.

“I note with dismay that Sir Alan Massey has said the coastguard service needs to be brought into the 21st century and that operations can be delivered more efficiently under these proposals. It’s quite clear that the importance of local knowledge and the fragile communications we suffer from here in Shetland aren’t being factored in at all”.

These and a number of other points are made in a 33-page paper that was put together by the 4 Councils and 12 other organisations in the isles. The delegation will hand over the paper to Mr Penning at the meeting and it will be available on the Shetland Islands Council’s website later on today.

The six strong delegation comprises, Shetland: Sandy Cluness and Willie Shannon, Assistant Chief Executive; Western Isles: Angus Campbell, Council Leader and Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive; Orkney: Stephen Hagan, Council Leader; and Highland: Michael Foxley, Council Leader.