Scottish government 'ready with Libya help'

Jim Coyle
Image caption Jim Coyle was among 100 Britons trapped at a camp in Libya

The Scottish government has been doing all it can to support Scots caught up in the continuing crisis in Libya, the external affairs minister has said.

Fiona Hyslop said ministers were "deeply concerned" about those still stranded in the African country, including oil workers.

Thousands of foreigners are trying to flee Libya amid an uprising against the country's leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Two Hercules planes later rescued about 150 workers from the desert.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced that the planes, carrying Britons and other foreign nationals, had reached Malta.

Fears had been growing for British citizens left in the country which has been plunged into chaos as protests against Col Gaddafi's regime continue.

Among the oil workers trapped in Libya is Jim Coyle, from Erskine in Renfrewshire.

Mr Coyle, who is employed by OPS International, was thought to be with about 100 Britons at a desert camp and had described his situation as urgent. However, he was not on one of the flights.

Stephen Thomson, who is originally from East Kilbride, works for a drilling company in the Libyan desert but had managed to get on an earlier RAF plane to Malta.

"There was just a waiting game for them to come and get us," he told BBC Radio Scotland. "There was only one flight per day.

"The night before I left, there was about 400 in the base and the plane could only take 100 people.

"It was getting really hectic. When we got on the RAF flight there were smiles all round as the plane took off."

Ms Hyslop said Foreign Office minister Alastair Burt had agreed to hold regular discussions with the Scottish government about the ongoing situation in Libya.

Image caption People have been fleeing Libya since the uprising began last week

"Mr Burt has welcomed the contribution made by the Scottish government and others in Scotland in our joint efforts to bring Scots home including using our long established contacts and relationship with Scottish-based oil companies," Ms Hyslop added.

The Scottish government's Resilience Room (SGoRR) has been activated.

The unit is made operational in times of crisis to provide ongoing support should it be required.

On Saturday, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "James Coyle's harrowing testimony should remind us all that there are families across Scotland very worried about relatives still trapped In Libya.

"There are strong links between Aberdeen, the north east and other parts of Scotland and oil-producing countries around the world.

"Oil industry workers are used to working in difficult circumstances but the situation in Libya is now extremely serious."

'Harrowing testimony'

Ms Hyslop's comments came after Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond criticised the UK government on Thursday for failing to involve the Scottish Parliament in its discussions about the crisis.

However, Mr Salmond later spoke with Foreign Secretary William Hague to offer his help.

Ms Hyslop added: "The foreign secretary said to the first minister that he would reflect on the issue of Scottish government involvement in Cobra meetings and discuss the issue with the prime minister, and we look forward to hearing from him.

"Scottish ministers and officials have participated in many Cobra meetings in the past on a routine basis, for example in relation to the Glasgow airport attack."

Ms Hyslop said the government was also seeking to ensure the welfare needs of Libyan students and academics currently in Scotland were being met.

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