View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wednesday 30 March

A grey, wet and increasingly windy day today. The overnight freight ferry has been cancelled due to adverse weather. That did not quite become clear from the forecast, but some weathermen give us force 7 winds at some point during Thursday.

Some good news regarding the campaign against cuts in the coastguard service. I quote from Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon:
Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth): From his visits to Cornwall, the Prime Minister will appreciate the high regard for the coastguard service there and around the UK. I am reassured that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), has said that the current modernisation proposals are not a done deal. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is very important to get the plans right?

The Prime Minister: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. She is a Cornish MP, and I am sure that she and the whole of the House would want me to say how much we feel for our colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray), who lost her husband in a tragic fishing accident. That demonstrates the extraordinary risks that people in coastal communities take, and our hearts should go out to her and her family.

We want to make changes only if they improve the coastguard support that people in fishing communities and elsewhere get. That is what the reform is about: trying to ensure that the real impetus is on the front line. If that is not the case, we will obviously have to reconsider the reforms, and that is why they are being reviewed. What I would say to everyone who cares about this issue is: work with us to make sure we get the maximum amount in those lifeboats and other ways of helping our fishing and other communities.

In other words, the plans that were on the table from the beginning of this year appear to be dead in the water. These involve downgrading or closing five of the Scottish Coastguard stations (including the one here in Stornoway), as well as quite a few others south of the border.