An SNP MSP has pledged to step up the fight to save Scotland’s busiest Coastguard base saying that lives will be lost if it is allowed to close.
Stuart McMillan, the member for West Scotland, is to contact his counterparts in Northern Ireland to discuss the UK’s plans to make Belfast responsible for the Clyde area.
The UK Government has proposed that the Clyde coastguard area’s responsibility should be divided up amongst existing centres in Belfast and Stornoway, a plan the Nationalist MSP described as “dangerous and foolish”.
A community-led and nationwide online campaign to save the vital service is in full flow and is supported by Mr McMillan who is in regular contact with Clyde staff.
Speaking ahead of a public meeting in Greenock next week, he said: “It is imperative that the UK Government’s Department of Transport looks again at the facts and reviews the case for saving Greenock’s Clyde Coastguard Centre.
“The UK government are prioritising saving money ahead of saving lives. It really is that serious. The Firth of Clyde is one of the busiest and strategically most important waterways in the UK.
“It is a part of Scotland that is loved by tourists and locals and has some of the best sailing waters in the world. Over 2.5million people travelled on passenger ferry journeys in the area last year alone.”
Clyde covers a unique area including Glasgow and Prestwick airports, seven ferry routes, dozens of islands and the Faslane naval base. Clyde Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) deployed more Search and Rescue hours than any other station in Scotland in 2010, and was the third most active in the UK.
Mr McMillian added:
“The river remains an important corridor for trading vessels and fishing boats alike.
“And it houses the UK’s nuclear weapons. Does the UK Government really think it’s a good idea to have no coastguard service located in an area with such a high concentration of interests.
“To do away with a committed and fully functioning coastguard service with expert local knowledge would leave a void that could not be filled by an over stretched centre in Belfast. The UK’s plans would see the largest coastguard area handed over to a base in Belfast that is currently responsible for one of the smallest.
“It would be a dangerous and foolish move to let the Clyde centre close.”
The Clyde centre serves a vast area of western Scotland including; Mull of Galloway to Ardnamurchan Point, the Islands of Jura, Gigha, Islay, Arran, Coll, Tiree, Mull, Bute and Cumbrae.
With other emergency services devolved, Mr McMillan argued that the Scottish Government should be granted responsibility for the coastguard in Scotland.
He added: “Both in delivering and operating services there is no substitute for local knowledge and understanding. Scotland’s emergency services should be managed for Scotland’s needs.
“The west coast of Scotland needs this service and it is essential Westminster recognise this. If they are unable to deliver the services required then they should transfer the responsibility to the Scottish Government.”