The St Abbs community came together tonight to debate the future of the village’s 104-year long relationship with its lifeboat.
They heard how the RNLI had decided to close the station, “following an extensive review of the area to ensure the charity continues to provide the most effective lifesaving service to the public.” The committee of volunteers, chaired by station master Alastair Crowe, explained that they were seeking the local public’s opinions, and had invited them to a meeting that was originally to have been the crew’s AGM. The crew, being asked what appeal procedure they had explored, said that their attempts to talk to the RNLI had been difficult. “they’ve just put a brick wall up and they’re not engaging,” said Crowe.
“There should have been consultation with the council and the village,” he added, “but that’s not been done.”
Scottish Borders Councillors Donald Moffat, Jim Fullarton and Michael Cook attended the meeting, after SBC made an official request to the RNLI to reconsider the closure at a meeting earlier this week. And Councillor Donald Moffat echoed the volunteers’ frustrations with how the decision was communicated when he explained that it was only by luck that information he had requested on the move arrived from the RNLI while the council meeting was in progress, allowing he motion to be carried.
SNP MSP and Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse also attended, bringing with him a letter from Sir Peter Housden, an RNLI trustee, reacting to teh situation.
In part, the letter read: “I share your very high regard for the volunteer crew and all their colleagues and supporters at St Abbs - their service has been exemplary. I can also understand the concern these proposals will engender. I hope that further dialogue will enable a full and mutual appreciation of the issues, and agreement on a way forward.”
Attendees voted unanimously with a show of hands to fight to keep the station functioning, and it was also decided that the village would no longer be raising funds for the RNLI. Committee member Euan Gibson told the meeting that as soon as the closure had been announced to the crew, RNLI coinboxes had been removed from the village. It was further agreed that the village’s Gala Day, traditionally held to raise funds for the RNLI, would go ahead as usual but would not contribute funds to the charity. It was noted with irony by station master Crowe that last year the station had been presented with “a framed certificate in honour of the fundraising that we have done or the RNLI”. In an 18 year period, it was estimated that St Abbs had raised just short of £118,000 for the charity. This provoked questions from the over the destination of funds raised in the village, and upon being told by Crowe that the monies “went into the big pot, down in Poole [RNLI headquarters], and that there was no guarantee of them being spent in St Abbs, a member of the public said he was thinking of changing his will, and that “he was glad he knew that now”.