FoI request for Coastguard exercise results

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Stornoway Coastguard campaigners have had to initiate a Freedom of Information request to secure details of the MCA table top exercise that replicated the agency’s vision of a radically slimmed down service.

The exercise, the Gazette revealed last month, was a washout and comprehensively demonstrated that cutting the number of Coastguard stations in half would simply not work in practice.

Despite being promised the results of the exercise more than three weeks ago, nothing has as yet been forthcoming from the MCA.

The table top exercise, which took place in Transport House on May 24 last year, failed spectacularly when two incidents were occurring in the same area simultaneously. Planners, some of whom had not worked in an operations room in decades, had forgotten that it was not possible for two disparate rescue co-ordination centres to use the same aerial for communications.

Campaigners hope to have a response to their FoI request in a fortnight. But at the MCA public meeting earlier this week, a senior MCA official claimed there had been “no results” from the table top exercise.

Meanwhile, the campaign to save Stornoway Coastguard has been backed by Three Men Go To Scotland star, Griff Rhys-Jones. The funny-man, who was filming in the Western Isles along with his co-stars for the programme last year, said he was shocked the cuts have been planned at all.

“I know everybody is talking about front line services, but this is certainly the front line if anything is. This is the middle of a recurring and never-ending battle and human lives are at risk,” remarked Mr Rhys-Jones.

“As anybody who goes to sea around Britain knows, the Coastguard and rescue services are without parallel. They serve a vital function. I believe that we should be cutting unnecessary expense, but is the Government really prepared to have people lives on its conscience?”