Tide turning in fight to save Coastguard?

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THE tide could be turning in the fight to save the Forth Coastguard station at Fife Ness.

An MPs’ inquiry has been launched into plans to close the East Neuk base, while last night (Thursday) worried locals turned out to voice their disapproval at a public meeting in Anstruther.

Under UK government proposals, 10 of the country’s 18 Coastguard stations — including Fife Ness — will be closed as part of cost-cutting measures.

But the controversial plans are to be put under the microscope by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, with local politicians also vowing to ramp up the pressure on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which has put forward the money-saving proposals.

Speaking ahead of last night’s public meeting at Waid Academy, North East Fife MP Iain Smith described the plans as “short-sighted”.

He said: “This is an important meeting as it gives people a chance to make their views known to the MCA and demonstrate the strength of feeling towards these short-sighted proposals.

“Forth Coastguard provides a vital round-the-clock service protecting our coastline from the Scottish border to beyond Montrose.

“Not only is it the cheapest operation in the UK to run but the lifeboat stations within its area of responsibility were the busiest in Scotland last year.”

The MCA says modern technology means Coastguard stations can co-ordinate rescues — including those by RNLI lifeboat — more remotely than before.

They hope to save £7.5 million a year by shutting 10 bases, with Fife Ness earmarked as one of the first to go.

CRITICS

But critics say the closures could lead to an increase in response times to emergencies, while around 250 jobs will be lost nationwide.

Mr Smith will be making representations to the MCA as part of a public consultaion into the plans.

He went on: “I am glad that an inquiry is to be conducted into these plans as, in my view, they are flawed.

“Not once in the consultation document is there a reference to safety at sea.

“Surely that is the most important factor.”

The consultation will close on March 24, after which the responses will be analysed and a final proposal put to ministers.

No date for a decision has been announced, with the timescale dependent on the volume of responses to the consultation.