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Risk of triple blow for marine safety
The Scottish Government has robustly opposed cuts to Scottish coastguard operations, in response to the UK Government's consultation on 'modernisation' plans for the service.
In a joint letter from Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead and Transport Minister Keith Brown, they call on Mike Penning, UK Minister for Transport, to reconsider plans to significantly cut coastguard services around Scotland's coasts.
Mr Lochhead said:
"The UK Government's plans for coastguard operations would deliver a triple blow to Scotland's maritime safety and must be halted. Closing Clyde and Forth coastguard stations, downgrading Aberdeen and - despite a three month reprieve - the possible removal of the two emergency tugs, would compromise safety and are moves heavily weighted towards saving money instead of saving lives.
"The Aberdeen Rescue Co-ordination Centre is strategically placed at the centre of the oil and gas industry. Therefore, it's very worrying that offshore energy incidents could instead be handled from the Southampton Marine Operations Centre (MOC). It's also completely unjustifiable that Dover is proposed as the UK's shadow MOC rather than Aberdeen.
"We recognise the need for modernising the Coastguard, however with Clyde and Forth being the first UK stations to close, once again Scotland is being used as the guinea pig for UK Government plans that clearly place cost savings ahead of marine safety.
"Clyde Coastguard oversees the busiest recreational area in Scottish waters, with intense and varied maritime use. It's unacceptable that such a large area could be covered from Belfast. The Scottish public have made their feelings very clear and the Scottish Government is in firm agreement that all Scottish stations should remain open.
"Furthermore, the scale and incoherent nature of the cuts proposed - which also include reviewing the Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Kinloss and scrapping the Nimrods - underline the risks that the marine environment and the people who use our seas are being exposed to.
"That's why marine safety and control of coastguard operations should be fully devolved to Holyrood, so that decisions impacting on the safety of our seas are made in Scotland with Scottish interests at the fore."
UK Government proposals for the Coastguard Service would see the Scotland's Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres cut from five to three. Scottish Ministers were not consulted about the proposals before they were published. Scotland has some 60 per cent of the Great Britain coast, however, these proposals would leave Scotland with only 33 per cent of stations in the UK.