UPDATE: Lamont praises protestors

St Abbs RNLI lifeboat Station
St Abbs RNLI lifeboat Station

The village of St. Abbs has announced that detailed proposals are being considered for the future operation of the St. Abbs lifeboat station, independently of the RNLI.

The decision to look at going independent follows the decision by the RNLI to declare St Abbs non-operational from 9am tomorrow (Tuesday, September 8).

There will be a meeting in the Ebba Centre on Thursday September 17 at 6pm to discuss any campaign for an entirely independent lifeboat station.

In announcing the decision the St Abbs Lifeboat campaign organiser Euan Gibson said: “St Abbs has a 104 year association with the RNLI and we are naturally sad that this should come to an end.

“However the fact remains that we believe there is a major divergence of views between ourselves and the RNLI over the safety issues which affect this coast.

“St Abbs has been supported in its judgement by local medical services, The National Trust for Scotland (which owns the St Abbs Head Nature Reserve), The British Sub Aqua Club, The Scottish Sub Aqua Club, 46 MPs who signed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, 13,500 members of the Public who signed the petition, not to mention the thousands of RNLI supporters who have contacted us.

“Lifeboat crews are volunteers, many being drawn from fishing communities, the merchant navy and many other walks of life. In the case of St Abbs local knowledge is of particular importance. In 2011 this was acknowledged through an RNLI Bronze Medal award of bravery for a rescue mission that would not have been possible without local knowledge.

“In recent years St Abbs has bucked the trend, and seen an increase in fishing boats with leisure use increasing also. Many rescues are now associated with leisure activities such as scuba diving, sea kayaking, surfing, cliff walking, sea angling etc.

“If anything the need for the right boat at St Abbs has increased rather than the reverse.”

He went on to say: “The decision by the RNLI to replace St Abbs with a smaller and less capable boat at Eyemouth is, we believe, an error of judgement, based on flawed data.

“For this reason and in the public interest we are announcing today that detailed planning is under way to raise funds for an entirely independent lifeboat station at St. Abbs.

“This will be carried out very much in the spirit of the original Jane Hay campaign to have a lifeboat at St. Abbs - where it is needed most.

“As part of our plans our advisers are already in discussion with RNLI regarding the existing lifeboat house and lifesaving equipment. The lifeboat house and its fittings and fixtures belong to the St Abbs Harbour Trustees.

“In order to operate independently we will need to launch an independent appeal for funds.

“We ask that our supporters remain patient while we take advice, and discuss the best way of moving this project forward.”

Meanwhile, local MSP John Lamont has praised those who ran the campaign to save the station and said the closure went ahead despite the best efforts of the local community. He has now urged residents to look closely at whether an independent lifeboat station could be set up.

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.”