West Scotland MSP, Stuart McMillan, wrote to the new UK Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, on 27th November 2012 to ask for details of the coastguard process handling the incident at Fionn Phort, south of Tarbert on Loch Fyne on 25th November.
This had culminated in the death of a young male sea kayaker, one of a party of three, who had fallen out of a double kayaker the night before, with the party going on to camp for the night. [Full details of the incident, following our own discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, were published here on 30th November.]
Mr McMillan wrote to the Transport Secretary, two days after the incident, asking for information. A reply was sent to him a month later, dated 24th December, from Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond.
Hammond had been famously underinformed on his brief during the second hearing of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee into the radical revision of UK-wide coastguard services. The committee’s report on these arrangements, reported on by us on 11th December 2012, was illuminating.
The Shipping Minister, however, seems to have been no better briefed by the end of that month, even on the most basic detail of the revision of the coastguard service, which was causing so much controversy across the country.
His letter to Mr McMillan, dated 24th December 2012, says:
‘Until its closure later this month [Ed: our emphasis] Clyde MRCC will continue to monitor all incidents…’
Clyde Coastguard had already closed, six days earlier, by long known arrangement, on 18th December.
Mr Hammond had not attended the closure although the CEO of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Sir Alan Massey, had had the straightforward front to do so. The Shipping Minister, with no experience of maritime affairs, was revealed by the Transport Select Committee not even to have bothered to visit a coastguard station to familiarise himself with one of the major ongoing projects in his portfolio.
One would have thought that by the end of December, the Minister would at least have absorbed the fact that Clyde Coastguard had already gone. And a man had died – but a month was OK to respond to an MSP’s immediate request for information on the incident.