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Davie Tait
14th February 2011, 15:19
http://www.fishnewseu.com/latest-news/scottish/5226-scottish-government-seeks-views-on-coastguard-closures.html

Monday, 14 February 2011 09:27

SCOTTISH Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead has written to more than 40 organisations with an interest in marine safety to seek views on how the Coastguard Service can be best managed in Scotland.

In the wake of UK Government proposals to significantly reduce the number of Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres in Scotland, the Scottish Government's Rural Secretary is asking key players about the merits of seeking devolution of the coastguard service in Scotland.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is consulting on proposals to cut the number of coastguard stations in Scotland from five to two, one of which would be part-time.

The Scottish Government was not consulted before the MCA's announcement was made, but to inform a formal response, Mr Lochhead has written to local authorities, maritime and safety organisations In Scotland to ask for their urgent views on the way ahead.

Among the issues to consider, Mr Lochhead is asking respondents whether the coastguard service should be devolved to Scotland as are other 'blue light' functions such as police, ambulance and fire services.

Mr Lochhead said: "The UK review of the coastguard services recommends maintaining just one 24-hour centre in Scotland - at Aberdeen - and keeping one other, either in Stornoway or Shetland, in daylight hours only. If these unjustifiable measures are implemented, maritime safety in Scotland will surely be compromised.

"Scotland holds 60 per cent of the UK's coastline but these proposals would leave us with just a quarter of the co-ordination centres. This dangerous proposal is playing fast and loose with lives and safety.

"With ever increasing activity on Scotland's seas and around our coastline, the MCA's proposals raise serious doubts about the UK Government's ability to manage the coastguard service. That's why I'm keen to hear views from those who are most affected by the proposals on how this valuable public service can best be managed in Scotland, including the merits of devolution.

"As the Scottish Government prepares a formal response to the consultation, we need make sure that maritime safety - not financial savings - is at the heart of deciding the future of these vital services."

The MCA consultation document proposes that the current network of 18 Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres across the UK would be reduced to eight. Scotland would see a reduction from five to two (Greenock and Forth are set to close and consultation will consider whether Shetland or Stornoway will remain). The proposals if approved are set to be brought in over a four year period starting in 2011/12.

Aberdeen, along with another centre in Portsmouth/Southampton would become one of two nationally networked Maritime Operations Centres (MOCs) and be supported by the remaining sub-centres in peak times.

Meanwhile the MCA has announced a series of public meetings to discuss the Coastguard modernisation proposals.

They say the purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for the local communities around the existing Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) to hear more about the proposals, ask questions of MCA representatives and have the opportunity to express their views.

The dates and venues for these meetings are:

Humber - Monday, 21 February 2011, The Spa, South Marine Drive, Bridlington, East Yorkshire. YO15 3JH

Thames - Tuesday 22 February 2011, Columbine Centre, Princes Esplanade, Walton on the Naze, Essex. CO148PZ

Yarmouth - Wednesday 23 February 2011, Great Yarmouth Town Hall, Hall Plain, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. NR30 2QF

Aberdeen - Wednesday, 23 February 2011, Pittodrie Stadium, Pittodrie Street, Aberdeen. AB24 5QH

Forth - Thursday, 24 February 2011, Waid Academy, St Andrews Road, Anstruther, Fife. KV10 3 HD

Dover – Thursday, 24 February 2011, Dover Town Hall, Biggin Street, Dover, Kent. CT16 1DL

Shetland - Monday, 28 February 2011, Town Hall, Upper Hillhead, Lerwick, Shetland. ZE1 0HB

Stornoway - Tuesday, 1 March 2011, Nicholson Institute, Springfield Road, Stornoway. HS1 2PZ

Solent - Tuesday 1 March 2011, Thorngate Halls (Community Centre), Thorngate Halls, Bury House, Bury Road, Gosport, Hampshire. PO12 3PX

Holyhead - Wednesday, 2 March 2011, Holyhead High School, Alderley Terrace, Holyhead, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey. LL65 1NP

Clyde - Wednesday 2 March 2011, Port Glasgow Town Hall, 35 King Street, Port Glasgow. PA14 5HD

Belfast - Thursday, 3 March 2010, Marine Court Hotel, 18-20 Quay Street, Bangor. BT20 5ED

Liverpool – Thursday, 3 March 2011, Southport Convention Centre, The Promenade, Southport. PR9 0DZ

Milford Haven – Friday, 4 March 2011, Cleddau Bridge Hotel, Essex Road, Pembroke Dock. SA72 6EG

Swansea – Monday, 7 March 2011, Marriott Hotel, Maritime Quarter, Swansea. SA1 3SS

Portland - Tuesday, 8 March 2011, All Saints Church of England School, Sunnyside Road, Wyke Regis, Weymouth. Dorset, DT49BJ

Falmouth – Wednesday 9 March 2011, Tremough Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall. TR10 9EZ

Brixham - Thursday, 10 March 2011, Brixham College, Higher Ranscombe Road, Brixham. TQ5 9HF

Kirkwall - Tuesday, 15 March 2011, Town Hall, Broad Street, Kirkwall. KW15 1DH

Ullapool – Wednesday, 16 March 2011, Macphail Centre, Mill Street, Ullapool, Ross-shire. IV26 2UN

Each meeting will be independently chaired and will begin at 7:30pm, expecting to draw to a close by 9pm.
The details of these proposals, together with the consultation documents, can be found on the MCA website at www.mcga.gov.uk.

Davie Tait
14th February 2011, 17:36
http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2133107

Rescue Service announces series of public meetings to let people have their say over planned cuts

By Ryan Crighton

Published: 14/02/2011

The coastguard service has announced a series of public meetings to try to calm fears over planned cuts.

UK Government ministers and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) propose leaving Scotland – which has nearly two-thirds of the UK’s coastline – with one full-time watch station, in Aberdeen.

The centres at Clyde and Forth look set to close and one part-time station will be left, in either Shetland or Lewis.

First Minister Alex Salmond will today meet Prime Minister David Cameron in an attempt to sink the plans and have maritime safety devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The cuts, which will see up to 250 job losses nationwide by 2014, are predicted to save £7.5million a year.

Politicians, councils and the coastguard union have attacked the plans, saying it will put lives at risk.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has written to more than 40 organisations with an interest in marine safety, including ferry companies, coastal councils and fishing groups to find out if there is a strong case to devolve coastguard functions.

Mr Lochhead said: “With ever increasing activity on Scotland’s seas and around our coastline, the MCA’s proposals raise serious doubts about the UK Government’s ability to manage the coastguard service.

“That’s why I’m keen to hear views from those who are most affected by the proposals on how this valuable public service can best be managed in Scotland, including the merits of devolution.”

The SNP administration, which says it was not consulted before the announcement, intends to use the responses in its submission to the MCA.

Last night, opposition parties attacked the government’s “ill-thought out” approach.

Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, said: “We need all parties to stand behind Scotland’s coastguard stations and ensure the UK Government retain this vital service.”

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray MSP added: “The only thing more ill thought-out than the Tory plan to close coastguard stations is the SNP plan to break up the whole coastguard service.

“Changes should only be driven by the need to save lives, not by the Tory desire to cut or the SNP’s obsession with breaking up the coastguard.”

There will be seven public meetings in Scotland, starting on Wednesday, February 23, at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen.

The Shetland meeting is at the town hall, Upper Hillhead, Lerwick, on February 28.

People at Stornoway will get their say at the Nicholson Institute, Springfield Road, on Tuesday, March 1.

Meetings will then be held at the town hall in Broad Street, Kirkwall, on Tuesday, March 15, and the Macphail Centre, Mill Street, Ullapool, on Wednesday, March 16.

Each meeting will be independently chaired and will begin at 7.30pm.

An MCA spokesman said: “The purpose of the meetings is to provide an opportunity for the communities around the existing maritime rescue co-ordination centres to hear more about the proposals, ask questions of the MCA and have the opportunity to express their views.”

UK Shipping Minister Mike Penning has promised to visit threatened stations before deciding whether to go ahead with planned cuts to the coastguard service.

Council leaders have petitioned the UK Government in their campaign to save coastguard services in the Highlands and islands.

They want to see around-the-clock coastguard services at Stornoway and Lerwick retained, with emergency towing vessels.

A 33-page document highlighting the reasons why the services should remain was also presented to Mr Penning last Monday at the Department for Transport offices in London.

The details of the proposals, together with the consultation documents, can be found on the MCA website at www.mcga.gov.uk

Read more: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2133107#ixzz1DxKMvWD1