Plan to close Fife Ness Coastguard station ‘fundamentally flawed’

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North East Fife MSP Iain Smith has described the plan to close the Forth Coastguard as “fundamentally flawed” at the Scottish Parliament.

The base at Fife Ness, which provides a 24-hour, seven day a week service for the coastline from the Borders to beyond Montrose, is under threat of closure as part of a UK government reorganisation of the Coastguard service.

Mr Smith also revealed that figures from the RNLI showed the 10 lifeboat stations within Forth Coastguard’s area of responsibility were called out to more than a third of all Scottish RNLI responses last year.

He said the figures demonstrated “a compelling case for the station’s retention.”

Speaking in the debate, Mr Smith said: “I hope that neither the Maritime and Coastguard Agency nor the parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport has a closed mind on the issue, because I believe that the proposals in the consultation document are fundamentally flawed.

“For all emergency services, the speed of response can be critical. That applies even more to the Coastguard. Time and tide wait for no man.

TRAPPED

‘‘For someone who is trapped by an incoming tide on the West Sands at St Andrews, a minute’s delay in launching the Broughty Ferry lifeboat might literally be the difference between life and death.

“My main concern is the absence of any evidence that the review will improve safety at sea, which should surely be the prime driver for any change to the service.

‘‘Unless the Maritime and Coastguard Agency can show that its proposals will improve safety and save lives, those proposals should be rejected.”

Labour MSP Claire Baker described the proposal as “reckless” and accused the UK government of putting lives at risk.

She added: “With the growth of Fife’s ports as key players in Scotland’s renewables industry it makes sense that the Coastguard station should stay.

“People’s safety should come first and this decision risks putting lives in danger.”

The move has also been criticised by Rod Campbell, SNP candidate for north east Fife.

He described the planned closure as ‘‘completely unacceptable,’’ adding: “Everyone associated with the fishing industry in the East Neuk will be horrified at these ridiculous proposals.

“Our fishing industry, oil industry, our growing off shore renewables industry - in which Fife is set to play a vital part - all rely on the Coastguard. These plans must be rethought.

“These cuts, which would see the work of five stations effectively centralised in one full-time station and one station operating in daylight hours only, have raised serious concerns about safety.