Scottish Government
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Scottish coastguards

Consideration should be given to devolving Scotland's coastguard services to protect them from reckless cuts which have not been properly consulted on and will put lives at risk Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead said today.

Mr Lochhead's comments were in response to a Select Committee report which is heavily critical of the UK Coalition Government's current proposals on a range of marine safety issues.

The Committee found that the proposals for modernising the Coastguard would lead to an inevitable loss of vital local knowledge and that the proposed drastic reduction in co-ordination centres would reduce the rate and quality of exchange of information and critically, this could happen at key points in responding to incidents, where it could directly lead to loss of life.

On top of that it finds the concept of daylight-hour stations is flawed - and argues that 24/7 cover should be maintained.

Mr Lochhead said:

"The findings of this damning report support the position taken previously by the Scottish Government on these ill-advised proposals. The option of devolving Coastguard functions should be seriously considered if we are to preserve the current life-saving service that coastal communities have come to depend on, and which are under threat on current plans.

"The coalition Government's proposals simply do not provide reassurance that the ability of the coastguard to respond to emergencies will be maintained. There are serious concerns that safety will be jeopardised if the proposals proceed in this reckless form.

"This report, as well as the cross border and cross party concern already voiced about the negative effects of current proposals, reflect strongly the feelings of industry stakeholders and members of the public. There is broad consensus these proposals are ill considered, ill founded and designed to save money - not lives.

"The UK Government should therefore withdraw its shambolic modernisation proposals and consult fully on revised plans which should include the option of devolving coastguard responsibilities to Scotland."

Mr Lochhead also highlighted the ongoing position of Emergency Towing Vehicles (ETVs).

He said:

"Following a unilateral decision to withdraw funding from ETVs from September, we still have no idea how this vital service will be provided from then. This situation poses absolutely unacceptable risks to both lives and our precious marine environment. A better way forward must be established and quickly."

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