Stornoway Coastguard station has been saved as a 24 hour service in a dramatic climbdown by the Government.
The capitulation over the controversial cut proposals will be warmly welcomed across the islands following an eight month fight by coastguard campaigners.
Speaking as the news of the reprieve was breaking Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, applauded the decision to save both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard stations.
Said Dr Allan: “This is a huge victory for the many campaigners who have worked incredibly hard on behalf of these local coastguard stations, which have been saved today. But above all it is a victory for common sense and for those who recognise that safety at sea is much more important than financial savings. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) simply got it wrong in their proposals and have abandoned their ill-thought out plans.
“The great strength, I believe, about the campaign which has been mounted against these cuts is that it did not take the bait which was offered by the MCA in their proposals. The campaign did not accepted the premise that one coastguard station, such as in Stornoway or Shetland, should be pitted against another.
“I believe a case has been made based on solid arguments of public safety, and based on what I believe is the compelling idea that the coastguard service should be comprised of staff that have a local knowledge of their part of the country. I am pleased that the MCA have now recognised the argument that has been made to keep this local link between the coastguards and our coast.”
Speaking from Westminster Isles Isles MP, Angus Macneil was in jubiliant mood, commenting: “Today is a victory for common sense.
“I am over the moon for Stornoway and Sheltand with obvious sympathies for Clyde and Forth.
“The Coastguard stations in Stornoway and Shetland have been saved and I could not be more pleased. It is truly a testament to a good, hard-fought campaign.
“When the MCA announced last year that they proposed to close Stornoway Coastguard Station it sent shock waves throughout the Hebrides. This has been a long campaign and I have the utmost respect for the staff at the Coastguard MRCC in Stornoway who together with the Task Force ran an effective campaign with the best possible outcome.
“Praise also goes to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Shetland Council for their hard work on this issue.”
Mr MacNeil who was vociferous in the House of Commons in defence of the Stornoway station said he would especially like to thank the Shipping Minister, Mike Penning Isles MP, Angus Macneil for showing courage and wisdom in the decision.
Also relieved was Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, leader Angus Campbell, said: “This is excellent news. I would pay tribute to the Minister for listening carefully to the case the community of the Outer Hebrides has made and for allowing common sense to prevail.
“Together with our friends in Shetland we outlined the obvious argument that to lose either Coastguard Station would be to unacceptably increase the risk to maritime users and our precious environment. The case was clear and unambiguous and the option of closing either Shetland or Stornoway Coastguard Station should never have been on the table in the first place.”
He added that whilst there was relief over the fate of the Coastguard service locally, there still remains the issue of the loss of the Emergency Towing Vehicles.
But he was upbeat that an alternative means of financing the ETVs can be found given enough time.
“I would implore the Minster, who has shown he is open to common sense on the Coastguard debate, to extend the contract for the tugs for an additional six months to allow us to work on an alternative means of finance. That cannot be asking too much given the serious increased risk that the loss of the tugs will create. Indeed, it is plain common sense,” stated Mr Campbell.