Coastguard consultation extended

A six week extension to the MCA modernisation consultation period has been welcomed by SNP Westminster Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP.

The announcement by UK Shipping Minister Mike came after the MP for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar had demanded an extension to the consultation period after last-minute changes to the business schedule at Westminster meant the issue would not be debated until the end of the original consultation period.

Said Mr MacNeil said: “I am pleased that the Minister has listened and extended the consultation period over the future of these lifeline services. We must now use this extra time to complete the case and persuade the UK government to abandon these crazy cuts that will put lives at risk.

“The consultation process has been a fiasco so far with it emerging that the government has not undertaken any risk assessment over what these cuts would mean and parliament not being able to debate these proposals until the last day of the consultation period.

“Cutting coastguard stations will put lives at risk and the Tory-led government must think again. Maritime safety - not financial savings - should be the driving force behind any review.”

The extension was also welcomed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Leader of the Comhairle and Chair of the Task Group set up to fight the proposed closures of Coastguard Stations, Angus Campbell, said: “This is good news. We have pressed upon the Minister the need for time to be taken so that all aspects of the proposals can be properly considered. I am grateful that the Minister has listened to the case we have made and recognised that this issue is more complex than it perhaps at first appeared.”

He added: “With the granting of this consultation extension the Government should also reconsider their position on the Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV). The ETV and the coastguard service are fundamental to safety of the waters around the Hebrides and need to be viewed as complementary services. In our view the Government should ensure ETV contract arrangements continue to allow the outcome from the coastguard consultation to be known. At the very least they should extend the contract for 18 months to allow the outcome from the coastguard consultation to be known and for the Comhairle and other campaigners to bring forward costed alternative proposals.”