COASTGUARD BASE FACING THE AXE

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PLANS to close the coastguard station at Fife Ness have been described as “a reorganisation too far” by Sir Menzies Campbell.

The North East Fife MP’s comments follow an announcement by the Department of Transport that they will be conducting a consultation on proposals that would see the station near Crail close and leave Aberdeen as the only 24 hour emergency service in Scotland.

The number of coastguard stationed at centres around the UK would be almost halved to 248 with the establishment of two nationally networked maritime operations centres that would be supported by six sub-centres.

But Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies has criticised the scheme that would see the station at Fife Ness close.

In a joint statement, Sir Menzies and MSP Iain Smith said: “This is a proposed reorganisation too far.

“Fife Ness performs a vital function in relation to safety, of fishing vessels operating out of Pittenweem and other harbours, of the remarkable increase in leisure sailing in the Forth - much of which is centred on Anstruther - of the general monitoring of all river traffic on the Forth and would be essential if any ship-to-ship oil transfers were ever to take place.

KNOWLEDGE

“Local knowledge in supporting the excellent lifeboat from Anstruther would also be lost.

“We shall be making detailed representations during the 14-week consultation period and encourage Fife Council, the Fisherman’s Mutual Association of Pittenweem, the RNLI, recreational sailors and everyone else with an interest in maritime safety to do the same.”

Miles Briggs, Conservative MSP candidate for North East Fife, has written to Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, asking him to make the case for retaining the station at Fife Ness.

“The Forth Coastguard station currently plays a vital role in policing our coastline as well as the safety of fishing vessels operating out of Pittenweem and other harbours,” said Mr Briggs.

“It is also clear that Fife Ness will play an important role in managing increased shipping with the development of Firth of Forth offshore wind farms.

Announcing the proposals, transport minister Mike Penning said the coastguard needs “urgent modernisation to keep pace with changing demands, changing technologies and our changing economy.”

He claimed the changes would benefit the coastguard, the maritime industry and the public by introducing a fully integrated network that would be far more capable of dealing with a major incident.

The consultation will run until March 24 next year and responses can be submitted at the website www.mcga.gov.uk