Now, the shipping forecast: Tiree quiet, 4 jobs to go

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The Independent Online

The litany of Radio 4's shipping forecast beginning "Tiree, Stornoway, Lerwick, Fife Ness ..." evokes an image of windswept observers reporting fearlessly from stormy headlands around Britain.

Yet the romantic picture of one man and his binoculars has been destroyed with yesterday's announcement by the Meteorological Office that the weather station on the Hebridean island of Tiree is to be automated from next summer.

Instead of the four weather observers who work on shifts around the clock observing visibility and cloud cover and taking temperature and humidity readings, the station will automatically send its readings to offices hundreds of miles away.

The station has been on the predominantly Gaelic-speaking island since 1926, and reports from the flat, treeless landscape, four hours by ferry by the mainland, are vital to shipping and aircraft. Ian Gillies, Tiree's only councillor. said: "We are concerned from a safety point of view. It is very disturbing to lose the on-site physical presence of four trained Met officers.

"The loss of four jobs is also a devastating blow to the island. In this area, we don't have many jobs of this calibre. These jobs bring in people with young children, who fill the schools."

Mr Gillies said: "The Prime Minister recently spoke about the importance of keeping viable populations on the islands, so I am very hopeful that the authorities can be persuaded to change their minds."

Yesterday, a Met Office spokesman said that the decision to automate the station was part of a programme which would eventually see most of the other coastal stations ceasing to employ observers.