Highlands and Islands MSP Mike Mackenzie has added his weight to calls for costguard services in Scotland to be devolved to Holyrood after new figures showed critical levels of understaffing of the station with responsibility for the Clyde and Western Isles.
A freedom of information request by North Ayrshire and Arran Labour MP Katy Clark has revealed that more than four hundred shifts at the Belfast maritime rescue co-ordination centre (MRCC) were below safe staffing levels in 2013.
The Belfast MRCC took over primary responsibility for the west coast of Scotland following the closure of MRCC Clyde in Greenock in December 2012 as part of the UK Government’s decision to cut the number of coastguard co-ordination centres across the United Kingdom.
But figures provided to Mrs Clark showed that MRCC Belfast was staffed at below risk-assessed level on 428 of 730 shifts in 2013 - 58 per cent of the total.
Concerns were also raised earlier this month regarding dangerous levels of understaffing at the Aberdeen coastguard centre, which led Dennis O’Connor from the ‘Coastguard SOS’ campaign group to call for powers over the coastguard to be passed to Scotland.
Mr Mackenzie, an SNP ‘list’ MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said: “These latest figures make worrying reading, and demonstrate the utter folly of Westminster’s decision to axe the coastguard centre on the Clyde.
“Closing the vital centre on the Clyde and losing valuable local knowledge was bad enough, but for the replacement service in Belfast to be dangerously understaffed is completely unacceptable and puts lives at risk.
“Scotland’s coastguard services are poorly served by Westminster, and it is no wonder that experts are calling for responsibility in this area to be held by the Scottish Government.”