Reaction to lifeboat station closure

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The connection between St Abbs and the RNLI has been severed after more than a century, with the removal of the lifeboat.

The occasion was marked on Tuesday, September 8, by more than 50 people who lined the harbour walls as the lifeboat was taken out to sea, on its journey north to Dunbar.

Onlookers threw 230 flowers into the water ahead of the boat, signifying the number of lives saved by volunteers at the station since its creation in 1911.

Crew committee member Euan Gibson said after the boat left: “I don’t think it will be the end of lifesaving at St Abbs. There is huge backing from all over the UK for a lifeboat here, so I think that we need to listen to those requests, we need to sit down as a village to see if we can fundraise and we need to see if we can run it.

“It won’t be a decision that we take lightly, because it won’t be for a year or two, it will be for quite a long time.”

The station’s last action under the RNLI banner was to offer assistance in the search for an angler who was knocked into the sea by a large wave on Sunday.

Further tribute was paid to the work of the St Abbs volunteers on Wednesday by a crew from RAF Boulmer.

At 11.10am their helicopter hovered over the harbour entrance for a minute or two facing the lifeboat station, then dipped its nose in salute as a mark of respect. St Abbs’ volunteers thanked the Bolmer crew for “an incredibly poignant and emotional gesture from people who understand what [the closure] meant to this little place.

“It must have been difficult,as they will shortly cease operations themselves. Again,a huge thanks for all your help and commitment over the years, from all your friends in St Abbs.”

Local politicians have been quick to praise the efforts of campaigners to keep an RNLI presence in the village.

Calum Kerr, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said: “I’m hugely disappointed that the RNLI wouldn’t reconsider their decision to withdraw the lifeboat service at St Abbs.

“However, local people mounted a fantastic and spirited campaign, with the crew themselves continuing to answer calls and save lives even with the closure hanging over them. They deserve our huge thanks and respect.

“We did all we could. Our MSP Paul Wheelhouse and I wrote to all the trustees - the only people who could have reversed the decision. Sadly, they weren’t persuaded. Everyone who took part in the campaign should feel proud of themselves. They may not have won, but they have displayed a community spirit and tenacity which is dignified and generous.

“In that sense, they’ve scored a victory, and St Abbs and the Borders are better for it.”

Conservative MSP John Lamont looked ahead to a possible independent lifeboat at St Abbs.

He said: “I am deeply disappointed that despite the best efforts of residents, St Abbs Lifeboat station is still set to close.

“I’ve rarely seen such a well organised and well supported campaign in my time representing the Borders and real credit must go to all those who were involved. Campaigners should take some comfort in the fact that they could not have done anything more to save St Abbs.

“I hope that we are now able to look closely at whether anything further can be done. If there is community support, I would certainly welcome a move to set up an independent station so that a presence is maintained at St Abbs.”

He added: “Other independent stations exist elsewhere across Scotland and I would be happy to facilitate discussions with residents who have done it elsewhere if that would be helpful.”

George Rawlinson, RNLI operations director, commented: “Closing a lifeboat station is never an easy thing to do and this decision was made only after extensive research that considered the location of existing search and rescue assets and changing patterns of sea use.

“I know that this is a sad day for the community of St Abbs and the lifeboat station - the lifeboat station has served the RNLI proudly for over a hundred years. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank them for their support, service and commitment to saving lives at sea.”