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UK coastguards unite against closure

CAMPAIGNERS throughout the UK have banded together for the first time to save coastguard stations from closure.

The move comes as the Maritime & Coastguard Agency began a series of UK-wide public meetings to discuss their controversial proposals to streamline the service, including one in Shetland next week.

Staff and supporters from the 18 coastguard co-ordinating stations have formed a single campaign group Save Our Stations to demonstrate they are all speaking with one voice.

The move comes in response to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s proposal to close 10 of its 18 co-ordinating stations, with five of the remaining eight providing a reduced service.

The coastguard unions say the plans will see coastguard staffing levels fall by almost 50 per cent over the next four years.

A campaign spokesman said: “The coastguards with all the different stations are doing our own campaigning, but we are all talking to each other and we are all of the same opinion.

“As chief executive Sir Alan Massey said, there are very few coastguards that are not calling for change or modernisation. But he admitted when he came to Shetland that not one has said these are the right plans.”

A consultation on whether Lerwick or Stornoway will be retained as a daylight only service will run until 24 March. Comments can be sent via the MCA website at www.mcga.gov.uk .

The House of Commons transport select committee has launched its own inquiry into the closure plans, along with the decision to remove the coastguard’s four emergency towing vessels introduced following the Braer oil spill, and to delete the offshore fire fighting and chemical spill response service.

Submissions to the select committee can be sent to transev@parliament.uk by 26 April.

The MCA is holding 20 public meetings throughout the UK in areas most directly affected by the closure plan, with one on Monday 28 February at Lerwick Town Hall starting at 7.30pm.

Each meeting will be independently chaired and is expected to last about one and a half hours.

At the insistence of northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael a meeting is to be held in Kirkwall on 15 march at Kirkwall Town Hall.

The first meeting was held in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, on Monday and the last one will be held in Ullapool on 16 March.