Deep anxiety was expressed last night (Tuesday) at a Holyrood meeting between the Chief Coastguard, the Scottish Director of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and MSPs of all parties.
The talks, hosted by Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, saw Scottish Regional Director of the MCA, Bill McFadyen, and Chief Coastguard Rod Johnson quizzed over the controversial modernisation plans.
Dr Allan commented: “The meeting included MSPs who represented between them all of the Clyde, Shetland, Forth and Stornoway Coastguard stations, and all of whom shared my serious concerns regarding the proposals by the MCA.
“Questions centred in on the crucial issue of the local knowledge which all concerned about safety at sea expect coastguards to have. While the MCA were able to give a clearer indication of their plans for stations to work more closely together, they did not allay my fears that local knowledge was being downgraded and the service essentially centralised.
“Other issues raised included the future of the Coastguard’s emergency towing vessels. No adequate explanation was given as to what if anything would now replace these.”
The meeting left the MCA in no doubt that their proposals are not acceptable, either in the Western Isles or across Scotland.
Added Dr Allan: “While the UK, rather than Scottish Government, retains control of the Coastguard, I believe that the Scottish Parliament, both through last night’s meeting and through the debate I led on the subject last month has made its view very clear. These plans are ill thought out, and the MCA should abandon them.”