The lives of anyone using the Moray coast for recreational or commercial purposes are being put at risk because of critical understaffing at Aberdeen Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
That is the view being expressed by Scottish Government politicians who highlight a report that shows the Aberdeen centre, which covers the Moray coastline, was the worst affected by staff shortages.
Aberdeen has been identified as the worst affected coastguard station in the UK with 97% of shifts during September staffed at a level that failed to meet the minimum risk assessed level of staff.
The figures were revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Coastguard SOS Campaign, formed to raise awareness of UK Government’s closure of half the UK’s Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordinations centres.
Now calls are being made for the UK Government to devolve coastguard services to the Scottish Government.
Coastguard SOS’s National Coordinator, Dennis O’Connor, has said that coastguard services should not be left with a “dangerously incompetent” UK Government.
Mr O’Connor said: “We now have a situation which is without question endangering the lives of those who use the coast for recreational or commercial purposes.”
North East MSP Kevin Stewart said: “These latest figures make worrying reading, and demonstrate the abject failure of Westminster’s duty to provide adequate staffing levels to keep the people in our seas safe.
“Scotland’s coastguard services are poorly served by Westminster, and it is no wonder that experts from the SOS Coastguard campaign recognise the need for responsibility in this area to be held by the Scottish Government.
“It is vital that the Scottish Parliament is given the powers Scotland needs to make sure we can properly protect our coasts, rather than putting lives at risk for the sake of a saving a few pounds.”
Moray’s MP Angus Robertson added his voice to calls for the Coastguard service to be devolved to the Scottish Government, telling insideMoray: “The SNP has consistently argued against cuts to the Coastguard Service around Scotland and the importance of that service has been highlighted recently when a large cargo vessel lost power in the Moray Firth.
“The Coastguard service took part in the precautionary evacuation of a nearby rig until the situation was under control.
“There is a strong case for devolving the powers to run our Coastguard service, given other emergency services are already controlled in Scotland.
“When the current UK Government setup has been described as ‘dangerously incompetent’ by Coastguard SOS it is long overdue to take that power back and use it to properly manage this critical lifesaving service.”