Western Isles SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, last night hosted a Member’s Debate in the Scottish Parliament opposing the UK Government’s devastating plans to cut the number of Coastguard Stations in Scotland and calling on them to abandon their plans.
In his speech Alasdair Allan said:
“In Scotland, it is clear, the consequences of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s plans would be felt particularly acutely. These cuts will be felt by everyone who cares about safety at sea.
“The great strength, I believe, about the campaign which has been mounted against these cuts is that it has not taken the bait offered by the MCA in their proposals. The campaign has not accepted the premise that one coastguard station, such as in Stornoway or Shetland, should be pitted against another.
“Under the MCA proposals, in hours of darkness, a call coming from any vessel in distress anywhere around the UK coastline and far out to the north Atlantic will be directed either to Aberdeen or to the new station at Southhampton/Portsmouth. All connections between coastguards and a specific area of the coast would be lost.
“Local knowledge is required of coastguards for a reason. Indeed that is why the MCA’s own rules for staff specifically make local knowledge subject to continuous examination. I find it difficult to see how that aim can possibly be reconciled with centralisation of staff on the drastic scale proposed.
“I hope I have made a case 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.
“One thing I have been asked again and again by many of those most affected is why the Coastguard is still run by the UK Government anyway, when so many other aspects of marine policy in Scotland are Scottish-run. These cuts make a strong case for the coastguard to be controlled to Scottish control.
“I welcome the strong support which the Scottish Government is giving to this campaign, and the representations which I hope they will make to the UK Government. I now call on Parliament as a whole to implore the MCA and the UK Government to abandon these flawed and dangerous proposals.”