Save search and rescue services urges MP

BANFF and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has appealed to the UK Government to stop the closure of Search and Rescue (SAR) services from RAF Lossiemouth after a parliamentary question revealed the role played by the helicopter cover in operations involving fishing boats.

The Banff and Buchan constituency is home to a large part of the UK's pelagic fleet - with Peterhead being Europe's premier white fish port, and Fraserburgh, Europe's biggest shellfish port.

A Parliamentary Question has revealed the number of times search and rescue helicopters have been called out to rescue troubled fishing vessels.

The SNP MP is now calling for the UK Government to consider the impact that the closure of the UK Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre and Search and Rescue Squadron 202 at RAF Lossiemouth would have on the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry, as well as mountain rescue.

A decision on SAR privatisation had been expected before Christmas, but has been indefinitely delayed after the preferred bidder said it had become aware of a possible issue with its bid. The UK Government has also announced plans to cut Coastguard stations from 18 to eight with only one in Scotland.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said: "The UK Government will put lives at risk on sea and land by closing the search and rescue services which currently serve the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry.

"The Search and Rescue helicopters and their military crews from Lossiemouth have played a key role is the rescue and location of fishing boats over many years, indeed they have been called out five time in the last year. The loss of this cover would be extremely troubling.

"The UK Government must consider the impact that the closure of the Rescue Coordination Centre and Search and Rescue Squadron 202 at RAF Lossiemouth would have on the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry. Lossiemouth is the obvious and best strategic location for this cover.

"It would be extreme stupidity to withdraw military aircrews and privatise search and rescue cover from Lossiemouth, given the massive capability gap already created by the decision to axe the Nimrod fleet at RAF Kinloss," she said.

"The military training and excellence of our RAF and Royal Navy helicopter crews have helped to save so many lives and maintain the highest rescue standards, and these skills and services must not be lost.

"Given a decision on privatisation has already been delayed because of problems with the preferred bidder, the UK government must step back from making a reckless decision that will put lives at risk."