Coastguard closures could cost lives

CONCERNS have been raised about the safety of people using the coastline around Galloway after plans by the UK Government to close Clyde coatguard service were announced.

The plans, released last week by shipping minister Mike Penning, reveal that Clyde and Forth services are to be closed leaving just Aberdeen as a 24-hour station, with a second operating during daylight hours only at either Shetland or Stornoway.

The ferry route of Loch Ryan to Northern Ireland could be left waiting for help from the east of Scotland in a location 200 miles away.

The Solway Sector includes Coastguard teams at Annan, Portling, Kirkcudbright and the Isle of Whithorn and is co-ordinated from the Liverpool Coastguard Office. However, due to the way in which Coastguard Sectors are set up, Coastguard teams based in the Rhins are co-ordinated by the Clyde Office, which is slated for closure. Either the Belfast or Liverpool Office is also selected for closure, giving real concerns over how MCA activity in the Solway will be co-ordinated in future.

MP Russell Brown says the ultimate plan to reduce the number of Coastguard bases from 18 to eight across the UK gives him grave concern.

He said: "I have written to Mike Penning to urgently ask him to overturn this decision and ensure the safety of ships off our region's coast is maintained.

"This is a quick money saving exercise and there has been no consultation with local people in Dumfries and Galloway. The local knowledge of our area built up by the team at Clyde Coastguard has been invaluable in saving lives. It is contemptible that the Coa

SNP MSP Alasdair Morgan also condemned the news, claiming marine safety would be severely jepoardised operations.