Coastguard sends an SOS

A VOLUNTEER coastguard has branded the UK service’s plans to cut costs by reducing the number of Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres from 18 to eight “a backward step” and warned that the move could endanger lives around the south-west coast.

Shaun McGuire, from the Isle of Whithorn, says that if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) closes Clyde MRCC and Liverpool MRCC the south-west coast will only have daytime cover from Belfast with nightime cover provided by Aberdeen, both manned by staff unfamiliar with this area.

He told reporter Louise Kerr: “Their intention is to close Clyde and I think they intend to close Liverpool too. “Half of our area is covered from Clyde and the other half from Liverpool. Belfast will give cover in daytime hours only and at nightime it will be Aberdeen (the only 24 hour station that will be left in Scotland) but the watchkeepers there do not know this area.

“The watchkeepers at Clyde and Liverpool know the area and have worked with us for years.

“We trust them and they trust us. No one from there is going to move to Aberdeen so everything will be done by a computer screen. The hard wires from Clyde MRCC to the aerial on Tiree are due for renewal and in August 2010 (two months before the consultation was announced) staff at MRCC Clyde were disturbed to discover that the hard wire was going to be routed to Belfast MRCC rather than replaced to Clyde MRCC.

“This effectively downgrades Clyde MRCC and makes it easy to close it.

“With that in mind I would urge coastguard volunteers and the general public to contact MP’s, MSP’s and indeed, Prime Minister David Cameron and ask them to resist these dangerous proposals.”

Last week the UK Government announced it would “scale back” its plans.

But Galloway MP Russell Brown said it “seemed happy to ignore the serious public safety implications closing coastguard bases would have”.