[singlepic id=79 w=240 float=left]Stornoway Coastguard is under threat of closure or downgrading to a daylight-hours-only service. On 16 December 2010 the MCA (Marine and Coastguard Agency) launched a consultation process with a view to modernising the service. A key proposal is to reduce the 19 round-the-clock coastguard stations around our coastline to four full-time and five open in daylight hours only. Of the four, one will be on the River Thames and one in the Dover Straights, and the remaining two – Portsmouth/Southampton and Aberdeen – will serve as South and North MRCC (Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres) and be required to handle all search and rescue activities for the country. The day stations will be at Swansea, Falmouth and Humber; and either Liverpool or Belfast; and either Stornoway or Shetland.
There is virtually universal opposition to the proposals, most urgently and vocally from the coastal communities. Those of us living by the sea are acutely aware of the value of local knowledge, local contacts and extensive experience. Former Coastguard Officer Norman G Smith has outlined in detail the very significant dangers inherent in the proposals: that local knowledge will be lost, that the proposals will put the remaining stations under pressure, and that the service will be reduced to a function of government rather than the essential emergency service we know it as now.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has set up a taskforce to oppose the closure of the Stornoway station, and although Shetland is our direct competitor under the terms of the consultation, the two local authorities have agreed to work together to oppose the closure of either station.
There are other ways to contribute to the debate:
Sign the petition to save Stornoway Coastguard
Keep up to date with the Save Stornoway Coastgard webpage – events also publicised
Read the Consultation Paper and respond via the MCA by 24 March 2011. See tips.
Write to your MP and/or MSP (wherever you live) to oppose the cutbacks
Follow the Stornoway campaign on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word
Follow the Shetland campaign on Facebook and Twitter
Sign the general petition to oppose coastguard closures
EDIT: We have a new Coastguard page where all updates to this issue will be added.