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Save Stornoway Coastguard Campaign Media Releases.
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Coastguard campaigners in Stornoway have greeted today’s announcement on the MCA consultation with mixed feelings. They welcome the retention of both the Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard stations on a 24 hour basis, something that the campaign has been fighting for since December 2010.
They also welcomed that areas of concern such as local knowledge, language, incident handover from a day station to a 24 hour station and communications infrastructure problems were all taken into account in this new proposal.

The areas of the proposals that were less well received included all staff having to apply for their own jobs at some point in the future, a lack of detail over the responsibility and tasks that will be undertaken by the single Maritime Operations Centre and the eight Sub-Centres.

Safety First Spokesman & Nautilus International Representative Martin Collins, said:
“Although we are obviously pleased with today’s announcement that both Stornoway and Shetland will retain their Coastguard stations on a 24 hour basis, our individual job prospects are still in the balance. Our thoughts are also with our colleagues at the stations around the country that are still under the threat of closure and we will continue to fight to keep job losses to a minimum.
It has to be remembered that these are still only proposals and nothing is cast in stone. We are now undertaking a further 12 weeks of consultation on the changes these new proposals put forward over the original document and we would urge everyone to look through these new proposals and respond to them.
The MCA executive board did compliment the staff at Stornoway on the professional way with which we have conducted our campaign and on the quality of our response to the original consultation.”


Campaigners in Stornoway and Shetland who have been fighting to retain both Coastguard stations have today welcomed the findings published by the Government's Transport Select Committee into the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and Maritime Incident Response Group.

The report agrees with the points that the joint Stornoway/Shetland campaign has been putting forward since the start, back in December 2010.
Primarily, the recommendations put forward in the report say that:
1. Stations should remain as a 24 hour operation and not go to "day light only".
2. Local knowledge and community ties would be lost under the MCA's proposals and the committee recognises the importance of this resource in reducing response times to incidents.
3. Incident statistics should look at the staff hours involved and not just the number of incidents.
4. Proposals put forward by Coastguards, as part of the MCA consultation, are properly considered for any revised plans for the future of the service.
5. A UK wide Geographic information system would be advantageous but this is unlikely to replace the local knowledge currently available through the officers who live and work in the area.
6. Withdrawing the Emergency Towing Vessels is "inviting disaster" and the savings could be wiped out by just one major incident.
7. The current ETV contract should be extended over this winter to give more time for alternative proposals to be looked at.
8. Maritime Incident Response Group should remain but be rationalised to become more cost-effective.

Safety First Spokesman & Nautilus International Representative, Martin Collins, said:
"This report has backed up our concerns about the current proposals and outlines a way forward for the future of the Coastguard. The Transport Committee has recognised that we are professionals and we want to be able to deliver the best possible service to all seafarers, coastal users and partner emergency services.
The MCA and the Government have our responses and proposals, they now have the Transport Committees report. It is down to them to use these and come up with a workable proposal for the future of the UK's national maritime search & rescue service."

Mrs Alex Dodge, Shetland Coastguard PCS Union Branch Chairperson, stated:
"Mrs Ellman's Committee's report is scathing. It highlights the unprofessional manner in which this whole embarrassing process has been conducted by the MCA management. Publication of this very thorough report provides the opportunity for the Westminster Government to take cognizance of its findings and with humility start putting humanity first. The Government can take encouragement from the willingness of the Coastguard staff and others to start afresh in a constructive manner for the long term benefit of mariners, coastal users and our environment."

The full report can be viewed or downloaded here: The Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and Maritime Incident Response Group


Representatives of Shetland Islands Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Coastguard Campaigners will be presenting petitions containing over 28,000 signatures to the Prime Minister on Tuesday. The petitions call for the Government to rethink their proposals for the future of the Coastguard Service. The Outer Hebrides petition contains just over 15,000 signatures whilst there are 13,000 on the Shetland petition.

The Coastguard and local authority representatives are handing the petitions into 10 Downing Street accompanied by Alistair Carmichael, Government Deputy Chief Whip and Shetland MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ann McKechin MP and (tbc) Angus Robertson MP, SNP leader at Westminster. Angus Macneil, MP for the Western Isles, will also be present.(tbc)

Angus Campbell Leader of Comhairle nan EIlean Siar said: “The people of the Shetland Isles and the Outer Hebrides have made their views quite clear. To get 15,000 people putting their names to a petition out of a total population of 26,000 is quite remarkable. The people are opposed to the MCA proposals for the Coastguard service. We have today passed on these views to the Prime Minister and we would hope that he is listening. These proposals will risk lives.
We have put forward a positive alternative plan which will allow savings to be made but will retain the 24 hour Coastguard Stations at both Shetland and in Stornoway. We urge the Government and the MCA to ditch their proposals.”

Martin Collins, Safety First Campaign Spokesman and Nautilus International Representative said: “We have received tremendous support from the public throughout the Northwest of Scotland, from the Western Isles, Skye, the Small Isles and the Mainland. It has driven us forward and kept our spirits alive to know that the service we provide now, and hope to provide in the future, is appreciated and vital to communities of this part of the country.
Coastguards take pride in what they do, no matter where we are in the country. We are here to keep the seas and shores of our country safe and we don’t feel we can do this effectively if the current proposals go through. This petition says that the public agree.”

The MCA proposals would result in only one 24 hour Coastguard Station in Scotland at Aberdeen and a daylight only service at either Shetland or Stornoway.


Thursday 19th May marked a milestone in the campaign to save the threatened Stornoway Coastguard Station with the visit of the influential Transport Select Committee. The Committee firstly visited MRCC Stornoway to hear informal evidence from serving Coastguards, before moving to a formal hearing at the Caladh Inn, and finished with a visit to the Search and Rescue helicopter and a flight round the Island. All this was against widespread media reports that the national closure plan had been scrapped by the UK Government.

At MRCC Stornoway, the Committee heard evidence from serving Coastguards representing Stornoway, Shetland and Aberdeen and our volunteer colleagues in the Coastguard Rescue Service from the Western Isles and Shetland Islands. We were pleased to get the opportunity to air our concerns to the Committee in private and they were very receptive to the points we made.

During the formal evidence session there were representatives of the following organisations: Stornoway Coastguard PCS branch, Shetland Coastguard PCS branch, Western Isles Council, Highland Council, Shetland Council, KIMO UK and Oil and Gas UK. The overwhelming evidence given was highly critical of the proposal, which stands to see not only the loss of nearly 50% of serving Coastguards, but withdrawal of the Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group and the inherent risks associated with these plans.

As the Committee were leaving they were presented with the public petition to retain Stornoway Coastguard as a full-time Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre. In total, we gathered 15,079 signatures, which represents a high percentage return for such a sparsely populated area as the Stornoway Coastguard district.

We as a campaign team feel this is a good point to thank the Transport Select Committee for taking the time to visit the Western Isles and listen to our concerns and ideas about the future of H.M Coastguard.

This is also the right point to draw breath, take stock of our campaign and say thank you to all our many supporters. This has been a difficult time for the Coastguard service, both nationally and locally, but your support has been overwhelming.
In particular, we would like to thank the following individuals / organisations: MP Angus MacNeil, MSP Alasdair Allan, Western Isles Council and all the organisations represented on the Outer Hebrides Coastguard Task Group, Highland Council, all local and regional media who have publicised and supported our cause throughout, and our colleagues in Shetland Coastguard and their Councils and supporting organisations – we have stood as one throughout and emerged all the stronger for it.
Last, but by no means least, we thank the public, particularly those who wrote in to the consultation and Transport Committee as either individuals, clubs or organisations, those who took time out of busy schedules to support our public meetings and our march, and those who have advised us on the conduct of our campaign.

We wish you all fair winds and following seas for the next chapter in this campaign.

Notes to Editors.

  • “Safety First” is the brand name for the campaign against the closure of the Stornoway Coastguard station.
  • For more information about the Safety First Campaign please visit our website at:
  • Follow us on Twitter:


With the deadline for submissions to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) consultation about the future of Britain’s Coastguard service fast approaching, the campaigners in Stornoway want to remind the public that this is their last chance to make their views known.

The MCA first announced the consultation into their “Protecting our seas and shores for the 21st Century” document on the 16th December last year. The closing date for submissions was extended by six weeks and is set to close on the 5th May.

The MCA’s plan calls for 3, of the current 5, Scottish rescue centres to be closed with only one of the remaining rescue centres being a 24 hour operation. Both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard stations have been put against each other and only one will remain open, as a “day station”.

Safety First Spokesman, Martin Collins, said:
“There are only a few days left in which to have your say in the future of the Coastguard and we would urge everyone to take this opportunity to make their voice heard. You can respond by post, online or by email and the forms can be found on the MCA website and we have links to these at

The Safety First campaign has been fighting for both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguards to be retained as 24 hour stations since the very start of this process and we have had overwhelming support from the public and our political representatives.
Anyone can have a voice in the future of the Coastguard, you don’t have to live near the coast or own a boat. The Coastguard is a national emergency service and is there to serve everyone, so make sure we have a Coastguard service fit for the 21st Century and make you views known.”

Notes to Editors.

  • “Safety First” is the brand name for the campaign against the closure of the Stornoway Coastguard station.
  • For more information about the Safety First Campaign please visit our website at:
  • Follow us on Twitter:


Issued 19th March 2011

On a damp and blustery Saturday in Stornoway over 200 people marched in protest at the Government’s proposals that could see the local Coastguard station closed or downgraded to a day station.

MarchThe march started at the Town Hall in Stornoway to sounds of a pipe band and a blast from the fog horn of the CalMac ferry ‘Isle of Lewis’. Those braving the weather included supporters, serving and ex-Coastguards, Alastair Allan MSP and Council leaders.

The march took a route along the harbour wall to Coastguard station at Battery Point where the gathered crowd heard speeches from Murdo Macaulay from the Safety First Campaign, Alastair Allan MSP and Council Leader Angus Campbell.

Those who took part in the march also donated £221 for a local 7 year old, Emily Tearse from Coll on Lewis, who is undergoing treatment at York Hill Hospital in Glasgow for Adult Leukaemia. The money will go to her parents to help them with travel and accommodation in Glasgow.

Safety First Spokesman, Murdo Macaulay, said:
“We have seen an incredible turnout today and we would like to thank everyone who took part in the march and those who have supported us since the announcement on the 16th December last year.
Today’s turnout, along with over 14,500 signatures that have been collected on our petition to Save Stornoway Coastguard, should send a strong message that the Coastguard station here in Stornoway is wanted and needed by those who live in the Northwest of Scotland.
We are not against change and we welcome upgrades in technology that make the saving of life and preservation of the environment easier, safer and faster. But we don’t believe that the plan proposed by the MCA and Government will deliver a better and more robust coastguard service.”

Notes to Editors.


Issued 17th March 2011

Three members of the Safety First Campaign to save the Stornoway Coastguard station travelled to Westminster on Wednesday for a meeting at the Scotland Office and to lobby MPs in the Houses of Parliament.

In the meeting with David Mundell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the campaign representatives, Carol Collins, Dave Macbeth and Martin Collins, were able to put their case for the retention of both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard stations on a 24 hour basis due to the unique and sometimes hostile areas of the UK that the two stations look after.

Also on the agenda was to ask the Scotland Office to support a recommendation that the Transport Select Committee visit Stornoway as part of their inquiry into the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels and Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG).

Safety First Spokesman, Martin Collins, said: Martin Collins, Angus MacNeil, Dave Macbeth, Carol Collins
“We had a very positive and useful meeting with Mr Mundell in which he agreed to look at making a Scotland Office recommendation to the Transport Select Committee that they visit Stornoway as part of the their inquiry. With Stornoway having all three main subjects of the inquiry based in the town, it was felt that the Committee could use this to the benefit of the inquiry.

We were able to explain some of our fears about the level of service we currently provide to mariners and public in the North and West of Scotland being reduced if the current plan for the modernisation of the Coastguard service were to be put in place.
Mr Mundell was very receptive to our opinions and we would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with us.

Later on Wednesday afternoon we attended the PCS Union’s lobby of MPs in the Houses of Parliament and had the opportunity to speak with a number of MPs about the modernisation plan for the Coastguard. It was gratifying to hear cross-party support for the retention of the Coastguard stations and the appreciation of the job that we do.
Angus MacNeil MP was our host for the afternoon and he spoke passionately during the lobby about the support that the Coastguards give, not only to mariners and those who use the coast, but also to the other agencies and emergency services during periods of bad weather, such as the recent snow, along with inland searches and mountain rescues.

Overall it was an extremely worthwhile and rewarding visit to Westminster and we now look forward to the march this Saturday in Stornoway.”


Issued 13th March 2011

The Safety First Campaign to save the Stornoway Coastguard Station will be holding a march from Stornoway Town Hall on Saturday 19th March at 2pm to highlight that the support of the public is still needed as the consultation process that could see the closure of the Stornoway Coastguard Station comes to an end.

The march will leave from the Stornoway Town Hall on South Beach Street at 2pm and walk via Shell Street and Newton Street to the Coastguard Station at Battery Point for 2:30pm where a rally will be held. A walk of just over 1 km or half a mile.

This is an opportunity for anyone who wants to show support for the retention of a 24 hour Coastguard presence in the Western Isles to come along and support their local station.

With the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s modernisation consultation process ending on the 24th March, campaigners from Safety First hope to encourage people to put their views forward before the opportunity is lost.

Safety First Spokesman, Martin Collins, said:
“Anyone with an interest in the sea or the coast has the opportunity to respond to this consultation and make their views known. You don’t have to live near the coast, anyone who visits the coast or uses the coastal area can put their views and ideas forward.
This march is to highlight that the consultation process is coming to an end and to make sure that everyone who wants too, has the chance to respond before that chance has gone.
Join us on Saturday 19th March and show your support for the Coastguard.”


Issued 22nd February 2011

For the first time, local campaigns against the threatened closure or downgrading of Coastguard stations across the UK have banded together in an appeal for support from the nation.

With just over a month left to respond to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) “Protecting our Seas and Shores in the 21st Century” consultation document and the recent announcement of the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the MCA, campaigners from across the country are appealing to people to use both these opportunities to make their views known.

The MCA’s plan calls for the number of Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres across the country to be reduced from 18 full time stations to just 2 main centres open 24 hours a day and a further 5 sub-centres, most of which will be open during daylight hours only. This plan would also call for nearly a 50% reduction in full time Coastguard staff within 4 years.

This national appeal is asking the public to respond to these plans to make sure that the UK has a Coastguard service that is fit for the Search & Rescue and environmental protection of the coasts and seas of this country in the future.

The public can respond to the MCA’s consultation document using the official response form available on the MCA website ( or in writing. Responses can come from individuals, groups or organisations and you don’t have to live or work near the coast to have a say. If people don’t want to respond directly then they can write to their local MP, MSP, AM or MLA asking them to respond.

The Transport Select Committee are also inviting written evidence for its inquiry into the Coastguard, Emergency Towing Vessels (ETV) and the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG). The inquiry will look at the wider impact of the Government’s decision not to renew the contract for the ETVs and future arrangements for sea-borne fire fighting & chemical response undertaken by the MIRG teams.
Submissions to the committee can come from anyone with an interest in these resources and full guidance is given on the Transport Select Committee’s website:

Coastguard campaign groups from across the country have said that these are the best opportunities for groups, organisations and the general public to have their say on the future of the only national emergency service in the UK. There are millions of people who work, live or play around the coast of the UK and the Coastguard are there to provide a service to all of them.
Help us now so we are here to help you in the future!

Notes to Editors:


Issued 17th February 2011

Campaigners at the closure threatened Stornoway Coastguard Station have applauded today’s announcement that there is to be a Transport Committee inquiry into the Coastguard, the Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.

The Commons Select Committee announcement follows oral evidence given to the committee on the 8th February by members of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) executive board.
The decision to axe the Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group is not currently part of the consultation process that involves the closure of the Coastguard stations.

Martin Collins, Safety First Campaign Spokesman, said:
“We very much welcome today’s announcement and fully support the Transport Committee’s decision to hold a full inquiry into the MCA’s proposed closure of half the Coastguard stations in the UK, along with the withdrawal of the Emergency Towing Vessels and the Maritime Incident Response Group.

These are all vital services that help to protect the environment and those who work & play around the coast and seas of this island nation.
We have said from the start that these plans for the future of maritime search and rescue in the UK are flawed. We feel that today’s announcement confirms that MPs are listening to us, our supporters and those who support the other Coastguard campaigns around the country.”

Notes to Editors.

  • “Safety First” is the brand name for the campaign against the closure of the Stornoway Coastguard station.
  • For more information about the Safety First Campaign please visit our website at:
  • Follow us on Twitter:
  • Maritime Incident Response Group are teams of Fire Fighters who have specialised training and equipment to deal with ship borne fires.


Issued 14th February 2011

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Iain Gray MSP, today pledged to support the campaign for the retention of both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard stations in a meeting with representatives from Stornoway Coastguard's "Safety First" campaign.

In the meeting, hosted by Western Isles Labour candidate Donald Crichton, representatives, Dave Macbeth and Martin Collins, were able to speak to Iain Grey about the overwhelming support that the campaign has received to date, the perceived flaws in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's future plans for the Coastguard and the newly released risk analysis.

Mr Gray said that he would do all he could to maintain awareness of the campaign both in Holyrood and with Labour MPs in Westminster. He also agreed that it was important for both Scottish island stations to continue to fight the campaign together and not be divided.

Martin Collins, Safety First Campaign Spokesman, said: "We had a very constructive meeting with Iain Gray and Donald Crichton this afternoon and we appreciate the time they have taken out of their busy schedules to listen to our opposition to the proposed closures. Having cross-party support for our campaign is vital if we hope to maintain the quality of service Scotland currently receives from its Coastguards."


Issued 1st February 2011

With the door still swinging in the wind after the departure of Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Coastguards he met on Monday were coordinating the successful rescue of 14 French crew from the Jack Abry II on the storm lashed coast of Rum.

Sir Alan Massey met Coastguard staff at the Stornoway Coastguard station to answer questions about the proposed closure or reduction to a “day light hours only” station as part of the consultation document published by the UK Government on the 16th December 2010.
Less than 9 hours later, in darkness and with winds blowing up to 50 mph, the French fishing vessel Jack Abry II issued a distress when it grounded on the coast of Rum.

The airlift of the Jack Abry II’s crew highlights that large scale incidents do happen in the waters off the Northwest of Scotland, at night, in gale force winds, and there is no way of predicting when these will occur.

For the second time in less than a week the resources under threat from Government cutbacks have been used to rescue those in danger of loosing their lives in the Minch. The Coastguard Emergency Towing Vessel, Anglian Earl, due to be axed in September, was sent to the scene to monitor pollution from the stricken fishing vessel and could be used as a salvage platform to assist in the recovery of the wreck.

Martin Collins, Safety First Campaign Spokesman, said:
“Like the Spiningdale rescue at St Kilda a few years ago, last nights accident on the coast of Rum highlights that distress situations can happen at any time of day or night.
With accidents such as this, where the lives of 14 people were in the balance, we find it staggering that the best scenario we can hope for under the MCA’s consultation is that the Stornoway centre will be open during the daylight hours only.
Some of the most demanding and serious rescues in the Northwest of Scotland occur at night and in weather conditions such as last night.”

Notes to Editors.

  • “Safety First” is the brand name for the campaign against the closure of the Stornoway Coastguard station.
  • For more information about the Safety First Campaign please visit our website at:
  • Follow us on Twitter:


Issued 25th January 2011

Campaigners from the closure threatened Coastguard Station in Stornoway have announced today that they will be hosting a public meeting at the Stornoway Primary School Hall at 7:00pm this Thursday (27th January).

The meeting will be open for anyone to attend and there will be members of staff from the Coastguard station and local councillors available to explain the reasoning behind the campaign and to answer questions that the public may have about the MCA’s consultation document.

The Government announced on the 16th December that either Stornoway or Shetland Coastguard station would close and that the remaining station would become “daylight hours only” as part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s vision of the future for the Coastguard service.

The Coastguards in Stornoway and Shetland have banded together, with support from their local councils, MPs, MSPs and overwhelming support from both island communities to fight these plans.

Campaign Spokesman, Martin Collins said:
“This is an open invitation for members of the public to come along to the Stornoway Primary School on Thursday evening and learn more about what we believe the MCA’s plans will mean for the safety of life & the environment around the west coast of Scotland in the future.
We need all the support we can get to show the UK Government that the MCA’s vision is flawed and will lead to a vastly reduced Coastguard service.
This is purely a cost-cutting exercise with no thought for the people we serve or the coastline and seas we look after.”


Issued 3rd January 2011

Following the announcement by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK Government to close either Stornoway or Shetland Coastguard station and reduce the remaining one to a 'day light hours only' station, Coastguards from both Maritime Rescue Co-ordinations Centres (MRCC) have banded together to fight the plans.

The publication of the consultation document 'Protecting our Seas and Shores in the 21st Century. Consultation on proposals for modernising the Coastguard 2010' aims to reduce the number of MRCC's in the UK from 18 to just 8, of which only two main centres will be 24 hour.
Seen by most as purely a cost cutting exercise with a total disregard for the safety of life and the environment around the UK's coast, the proposals ask people to justify which of the two Scottish island stations should remain open during the day.

Coastguards at Stornoway & Shetland are working together, with the support and backing from their local politicians and councilors, to retain both stations as 24 hour Search & Rescue facilities.

Contrary to the popular misconception that these MRCC's are simply 'Call Centres', each member of staff has to undergo a years worth of training, including exams in 8 different subjects, before they are fully qualify to work in an Operations Room. They are also tested once every two years on their knowledge of the area in which they work. They have to know the location and main contact for each rescue unit, prominent points within the area, towns, villages & harbours, as well as local danger areas and points of contact for gathering information.

Jointly, nearly 6000 signatures have been collected stating opposition to the proposals over the holiday period alone. Links to these petitions and further information about the campaign can be found on the Stornoway & Shetland Coastguard's websites at:

A spokesperson in Stornoway said: "We are asking for the public's support to ensure that those who live, work and play on or around the seas and diverse, beautiful and often hostile coastline of Scotland, continue to be served by Coastguard Stations that have an intimate knowledge of our unique environment and society. No amount of technology can stop accidents from happening but having the right knowledge in the right place can limit the effects of such accidents. Given the sea temperature around the Scottish coast at this time of year, Minutes Matter!"



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