In a debate today at Westminster, sponsored by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil the issue of staffing a coastguard stations was raised following the reorganisation of the coastguards announced 3 years ago. This is in a climate of slow recruitment by the MCA taking up to 8 months meaning that operation room watches are often undermanned at coastguard stations.
Speaking after the debate, Angus MacNeil MP said:
“I raised a number of issues today with the Transport Minister for Shipping with responsibility for the Coastguards, John Hayes MP. Mainly I raised the issue of the slow process of recruitment by the MCA and the impact of that upon coastguard station operation rooms and the training of volunteer crews. I also highlighted the ongoing issue of emergency towing vessels, as well as the inadequate proposals in the Smith Commission recommendations for oversight in Scotland of our coastguards.
“The situation at present sees operation rooms frequently undermanned, relying on staff to work overtime and some ex-staff to come out of retirement. This is unacceptable given it is 3 years since the organisation of the coastguard was announced. It is currently taking about 8 months between the advertisement and the placement of staff into coastguard stations. This is shockingly inefficient. I specifically asked the Minister, Mr Hayes, to look into this and also highlighted in my speech, possible solutions.
“I am sorry to say, that he gave no straightforward commitment to look into the problem, which I have to say given his responsibility for coastguards is very disappointing. Meanwhile, volunteer teams around the coasts are not getting adequate training because staff cannot be released from the operations rooms due to the ongoing under manning.
“We still have an issue in the Minch where we have ships carrying nuclear fuel and waste, ships carrying oil and cruise ships carrying large quantities of fuel and passengers, are regularly in our waters, but we have no Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) on standby.
“I asked the Minister that at least an assimilated exercise should be carried out involving the sourcing of a tug boat to see what lessens could be learnt. Our first experience of this, should not be an emergency situation, of course the real answer is to return the ETV.
Finally, I highlighted the inadequacy of the Smith Commission towards giving Scotland control of Scotland’s coastguards. As I highlighted, coastguards work internationally across many jurisdictions so London has nothing to fear from Scottish control of our own coastguards, other than their ongoing control freakery. In fact, they might even learn and benefit, as we have seen today from their near adoption of the SNP’s Stamp Duty Policy.
Picture: Mr Angus MacNeil MP, SNP Transport Spokesperson, addressing his concerns on staffing of coastguards centres to the UK Minister, John Hayes MP.