Coastguard closure confirmed

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STRONG criticism has followed news last week that the Fife Ness coastguard station is to close.

Reaction was swift to the Westminster Government’s news – which had been feared for some months – that the Forth coastguard base would shut, along with Clyde at Greenock and six others in England.

The closures are set to take place progressively between 2012-13 and March 2015.

The Government claimed the move would modernise the coastguard service, with Shipping Minister Mike Penning saying it would be better co-ordinated and more resilient to the challenges of the future.

It would provide “better support for our coastguard volunteers” and “front-line rescue capabilities,” he added.

But critics said genuine life-or-death risks would be presented by reducing the service in Fife and losing potentially life-saving local knowledge.

Fife Ness covers over 340 miles of coastline between Montrose and the north of England, and handles hundreds of incidents a year.

Bases at Aberdeen, Shetland and Stornoway are set to be retained, but this provided litle consolation.

North East Fife MP Sir Menzies Campbell said the Fife Ness decision was “ill-considered” and added: “Those who go to sea know best of all the importance of local knoweldge when emergencies arise. I am far from persuaded that these proposals are well founded.”

Local MSP Rod Campbell agreed the decision was taken for the wrong reasons.

Maritime activities in the area were increasing with major construction programmes, such as the new Forth crossing, and the offshore renewables industry.

Mr Campbell added: “The news that the seas around Fife and the Firth of Forth will be served by coastguard services based nearly 100 miles away in Aberdeen is extremely worrying.”

“This was potentially a decision of life and death. The wrong decision has been made and I sincerely hope it does not lead to an increase in injuries at sea, or worse.

“The decision to close Forth MRCC is yet another example of the UK coalition putting deficit reduction at the heart of important decisions, regardless of the cost to society.”