SNP - Tom Wills

Conveners meet minister as rally planned

A RALLY to protest against plans to close the coastguard coordinating station in Lerwick is being staged outside the station on Friday morning during a visit from Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Sir Alan Massey.

The vice admiral is visiting all the coastguard stations around the UK to meet staff and discuss the modernisation plans that would see Scotland reduced to a single 24 hour service in Aberdeen.

The current consultation to close either Stornoway or Lerwick and reduce the surviving station to a daylight only service has met huge resistance in both communities and beyond.

On Monday a delegation of council conveners from Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and Highland meets UK shipping minister Mike Penning to present a 33 page document outlining why the closures should not proceed.

Shetland Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness, who will lead the delegation, said: “As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the communities affected by the proposed cuts are totally united in their opposition.

“I’m sure Sir Alan Massey will see further evidence of that when he comes up to Lerwick on Friday. 

“This afternoon provides us with a chance to put our case direct to the shipping minister. We will be strongly urging him to rethink the whole proposal.  As I’ve said before, where they are looking at cutting coastguard services in areas like these, they are effectively dealing with life and death.

“I note with dismay that Sir Alan Massey has said the coastguard service needs to be brought into the 21st century and that operations can be delivered more efficiently under these proposals.

“It’s quite clear that the importance of local knowledge and the fragile communications we suffer from here in Shetland aren’t being factored in at all.”

Organisers of Friday morning’s protest have asked as many people as possible to meet outside the coastguard station at The Knab at 8.30am and to bring placards if they can.

Sue Anderson, who is married to a coastguard officer, said: “Shetland waters are some of the most unpredictable and dangerous in the UK and Shetland coastguard covers a bigger area than any other coastguard station.

“Shetland coastguard also has a lot of local knowledge and local respect. People here would not hesitate phoning Lerwick coastguard if they saw something which might be of concern. Are they going to do the same thing with Aberdeen?

“This is putting people’s lives in danger. Sir Alan Massey should go off in one of our local boats for two weeks and then he would know what it’s like.”

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