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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Storm over coastguard statistics
Coastguard
The MP said the closures had had a negative impact
The decision to close two of Scotland's coastguard stations has cost lives, an MP has claimed.

The allegation follows the release of figures showing that the number of deaths around the coastline last year increased by 50%.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said his fears about the closure of Oban and Pentland stations had proven well founded.

He said other stations have seen their workloads increase, putting further pressure on staff.


Perhaps what is more worrying is the strain these closures have put on the remaining stations

Alistair Carmichael MP

However, his comments have been rejected by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Pentland Coastguard station in Orkney closed in December 2000, three months after Oban was forced to close its doors.

At the time, MCA said safety would not be compromised and stressed that grassroots knowledge would remain in the form of rescue teams and other support services.

On Monday, it argued that a rise in the number of incidents could not be attributed to the closure of coastguard centres.

Nevertheless, Mr Carmichael called for the government to review coastguard operations and its overall policy.

'Refutes premise'

"Now we are seeing that the government's cost cutting exercise is actually costing lives," he said.

"The figures show that the number of fatalities in incidents involving the coastguard in Scotland rose from 54 in 2000 to 84 last year.

"In addition, the number of people rescued fell from 1,079 to 890.

"These figures come on the back of the decision by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to close the Pentland and Oban stations.

"Perhaps what is more worrying is the strain these closures have put on the remaining stations."

He said it was time for the government to review its coastguard policy before any more lives were lost.

However, the MCA said the figures had to be seen "in perspective" and that Mr Carmichael's claims were not borne out in the latest statistics.

Coastguard
The MCA called for a sense of perspective

"The MCA refutes the premise that the closure of Oban and Pentland Coastguard has led in some way to a rise in figures," it said in a statement.

"Numbers of incidents at sea are not driven by the number of coastguard co-ordination centres on land, so a rise in the number of incidents cannot be attributed to closures.

"Staff numbers at the current five Scottish co-ordination centres were increased in advance of the closures of Pentland and Oban.

"One of the major operational drivers for the closure of Pentland and Oban was that these stations and some of the flank stations, such as Shetland (1999 - 137 incidents), saw so few incidents that there was a risk that a keen operational edge could not be maintained.

"In 1999, Pentland Coastguard handled 106 incidents compared to Aberdeen's 854 and Solent's 1180 - more than 10 times as many."

See also:

15 Dec 00 | Scotland
02 Aug 00 | Scotland
29 Sep 00 | Scotland
17 Feb 99 | UK
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