Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Closure threat to University Marine Biological Station Millport

I’ve been watching developments regarding the future of the University Marine Biological Station Millport for a while, in the hope that something might have been resolved after the news that it had lost major funding and the likely result would be closure.

The station is the third-largest employer on the island in the Firth of Clyde, with 30 permanent staff, and attracts more than 1500 undergraduate students every year to carry out field work in the island’s coastal terrain. It also contains a museum and public aquarium that are one of Millport’s biggest tourist attractions.

A study by Jura Consultants in 2010 found that UMBC was responsible for 10 per cent of all employment on Great Cumbrae and contributed around £400,000 to the local economy each year.

Just two weeks ago it was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.

Closing the facility would also end more than 125 years of history that began when marine biologist Sir John Murray set up a floating laboratory at Port Loy in a disused barge.

Twelve years later local man David Robertson persuaded investors to fund a permanent research station at Millport.

It gained university status in the 1970s and has provided facilities for undergraduate, MSc and PHd students as well as hosting school field trips from around the country.

Via Threat to island jobs as Millport marine biology centre loses funding | News | Glasgow | STV

That news story appeared back in December 2012, just two weeks after the centre was awarded £100,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund towards renovation costs.

Petition

An online petition, which was collected in six days, was presented to First Minister Alex Salmond and Education Secretary Mike Russell on Thursday (January 17):

Last week, 42 Scottish marine academics, from six universities, signed an open letter to the Scottish government demanding “rapid” action to save the station.

Mr Russell responded by saying he had called a meeting of all those involved, including local MSP Kenneth Gibson, to discuss the situation.

Mark Blaxter, who co-ordinated the petition, said he was “humbled” by how many people had signed the petition.

“In only six days, thousands have registered both their dismay and their resolve, and are united in asking for swift action to save the station,” he said.

17 January 2013 – News of a Petition to save Marine Biological Station Millport

Millport biological marine station

Millport biological marine station © Richard Webb via geograph

Accommodation for those visiting the station is in a purpose built hostel, to the right of the station and just out of sight in the picture above. The station began in the centre building, but soon grew out of the space available, and the similar building to its right was later added to provide the space needed for its work to continue.

28 January 2013 – Video report on the station: Cumbrae marine research centre under threat of closure

Without wishing to sound critical of those speaking, they seem to suggest that the island and town are wholly dependent on the presence of the station, which some might say could be interpreted as damaging to the island’s much better known role as a holiday and tourism destination. The report suggests “Residents on the Isle of Cumbrae on the Clyde say the possible closure of a marine research centre will devastate the island’s economy”, and one lady was quoted on camera as saying “Might as well do away with the whole town.”

However, it does indicate how strongly they wish the station to remain in place, and that is important if their campaign is to succeed. Many similar efforts fade and fail because nobody cares – apparently not so on Cumbrae.

30 January 2013 – Redundancy talks mentioned in the video followed quickly: London University begins redundancy talks at Millport marine biology centre | News | Glasgow | STV

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February 7, 2013 - Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime | , , , , , ,

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