Holyrood to debate Coastguard closures

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The UK Government’s devastating plans to cut the number of coastguard stations in Scotland will be debated in the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday).

The debate, to be led by MSP for the Western Isles Alasdair Allan, calls on the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government to abandon the plans to cut the number of Coastguard stations.

The cuts have sparked calls for coastguard services to be devolved so Scottish waters and coastal industries can be properly protected.

Speaking ahead of the debate this afternoon at 5pm,Dr Allan said: “Scotland’s coasts are a core part of our economy. Our vast coastline and all those who work and travel in our seas must be properly protected. The Coastguard does a vital service to Scotland and the plans to cut the number of coastguard stations, removing local knowledge and risking coastal safety are completely unacceptable.

“It is clear to me that the UK Tory government is not concerned with the safety of Scotland’s seas and that the best solution would be to transfer control of the coast guard to a Scottish Government working for Scotland.

“Our fishing industry, oil industry, our growing off shore renewables industry all rely on the coastguard. These plans must be rethought.”

Under the proposals the work of five stations would effectively be centralised in one full-time station and one station at either Stornoway or Shetland operating in daylight hours only, raising serious concerns about safety.

Added Dr Allan: “Above all these proposals would deny the Coastguard the benefit of essential local knowledge around Scotland’s coastline.”

The motion to be debated in Parliament is: That the Parliament notes with concern the public consultation document launched by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that envisages what are believed to be drastic reductions in the number of maritime operations centres in the United Kingdom; notes that the proposed reductions would leave only two 24-hour centres operating, based in Aberdeen and in Southampton/Portsmouth; further notes that these would be supported by seven sub-centres and only one would be in Scotland at either Shetland or Stornoway; notes that this would result in the five operations centres in Scotland being reduced to two; believes that this raises serious questions about the future operation of the coastguard given that centres will now be covering what it considers to be such huge areas and that this has clear implications for many members of staff, and believes that these proposals require to be rethought.