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Convener cries out over coastgaurd cuts

SHETLAND Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness has expressed his anger about reports that the coastguard station in Lerwick is one of three in Scotland being considered for closure by the UK government.

Mr Cluness said: “This station is absolutely vital for the protection of the hundreds of fishermen and other seafarers who regularly travel the waters around the Shetland Islands, often in the most dangerous conditions and at all times of the year.

“The station and its twenty staff have co-ordinated many important rescues of seamen and such experience and knowledge could never be replicated from the mainland.  That the coalition government should even consider such a proposal, together with the removal of the emergency tug, is totally beyond belief.

“It simply demonstrates yet another example of this government’s failure to recognise the unique situation of these islands at an important crossroads of the North Atlantic.

“We are now entering an important phase in the development of the oil and gas fields west of Shetland which are so important to the UK’s economy.  These are being undertaken in some of the most difficult circumstances ever experienced in this industry.  The government itself expects to gain substantially from its share of the revenues so must in return provide the essential protection for those who are undertaking this task.

“The shipping minister has of course accepted my invitation to visit the islands soon to see the picture for himself and we will be able to discuss all these matters then.  In addition I will ask the minister to accept a visit from a delegation of Highlands and Islands conveners in London, as of course the protection of those who earn their living from the sea, sometimes at the risk of life, is common to the entire region”.