Fight to save Coastguard stations lost

FEARS over the closure of the Coastguard stations which cover Galloway were confirmed this week as it was announced both Clyde and Liverpool centres are to close.

Cover will now be transferred to Belfast and despite public outrage and numerous petitions spurred on by the risk to human life, the closures will go ahead by 2015.

Concerns have been raised during the lengthy consultation process that the local knowledge of crews covering the Solway and Irish Sea would be lost, resulting in delays.

It was suggested by the Government that the Belfast crews taking over the area should familiarise themselves with the shoreline - by using Google Earth.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said that the modernisation of the Coastguard was necessary due to changes in technology and communication.

He said: “The number and location of current Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres was largely driven by historical factors, together with the communication infrastructure and technological constraints at the time.”

He said the streamlining of the service, which will result in the loss of 159 jobs, is overdue.

He added that no new arguments against the closure of the centres, along with seven others, had been made.

But Murray Morland, coxswain of PIRSAC, the inshore rescue boat based at Port William said: “I think the coastguard closures will be devastating for this area. One of the most reassuring aspects of the Coastguard Agency was that they always sent people up from Liverpool to this area to see the conditions here. That information was valuable as they knew what we were up against in a call out.”

SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod slammed the decision to close both centres.

She said: “The decision to press on with the closures leaves serious questions as far as the Solway is concerned and, frankly, none of these have been answered.

“For the Westminster Government to state that ‘no new arguments have come forward to suggest that there is a strong operational or financial case changing these decisions’ is the height of arrogance. As far as I can see, they have simply ignored all of the legitimate concerns raised by coastguard officers, local fishermen and yachtsmen in opposition to the proposals.”

And Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “I am absolutely furious that the Tory-led Government has ignored the pleas of local people and has hammered the final nail in the coffin for Dumfries and Galloway’s coastguard cover. “Our region has over 200 miles of coastline and the local knowledge built up over the years at both Liverpool and Clyde coastguard saves lives. That has now been lost forever by the Tories’ announcement that the shutters are coming down on both bases. It is a disgraceful decision that has been made by a Government that has once again put cost cutting ahead of safety. They are shamefully walking away from our region and we will never forgive them for this betrayal of people’s trust.”

Russell Brown is also demanding that Scotland Office Minister and Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell comes clean on exactly what he did to try and save the stations currently protecting Dumfries and Galloway’s coastline. The Scotland Office has refused a Freedom of Information request by Russell Brown to release Mr Mundell’s submissions to the coastguard consultation and the Shipping Minister gave a “very woolly answer” when pressed on the matter.