THE CHIEF executive of one of Scotland’s biggest charities has written a letter to the RNLI – pleading with them to save a doomed lifeboat station.
Simon Skinner, from the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), has expressed his “deep concern” over the planned closure of St Abbs lifeboat station in Berwickshire.
The 104-year-old station is set to be closed this summer following a review of resources.
The area will be served by a new boat at Eyemouth – nearly two miles away – in a move that volunteers have said would “risk lives”.
Crews over the years have saved 226 lives and been awarded bravery medals for their efforts in the North Sea.
But despite a huge campaign effort from angry locals, and an online petition reaching over 3,000 signatures, the RNLI has confirmed the closure will go ahead as planned.
Now Paul Bossier, the chief executive of the lifeboat charity, has received a letter from the NTS, inviting him to “reconsider” the decision.
Mr Skinner wrote: “Staff based at the National Trust for Scotland St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve have alerted me to the RNLI’s plan to close the St Abbs lifeboat station.
“On behalf of the trust, I am writing to express our deep concern over this decision.
“As the Chief executive of a charity myself, I can well understand the RNLI’s need to improve operational efficiency.
“However, we do not think the proposed closure, and subsequent reliance on an Eyemouth-based lifeboat, is appropriate in the current context.”
He goes on to detail the reasons behind his concerns.
They include a considerable growth in the number of kayakers and divers in the area over recent years, the area’s international reputation as a marine reserve and the speed at which the Eyemouth boat would be able to reach the harbour.
He concludes: “In short, my colleagues and I are greatly concerned that the lifeboat reaction time would be substantially reduced in an increasingly busy area, thereby leading to potentially tragic outcomes.
“We would therefore like to invite you to reconsider your decision about the St Abbs lifeboat.”
Euan Wilson, a volunteer at St Abbs, said the letter had made the team “double their efforts” in the hope that the RNLI reverse the decision.
“It’s quite unusual for one charity to send such a request to another, and it has made us bolster our own efforts,” he said.
“The letter is a very welcome addition to the growing campaign to keep the lifeboat station open – there are some big voices.
“We are now going to fight twice as hard to save the station.”
At a public meeting held last Friday, volunteers confirmed that the RNLI had decided to close the station as planned.
They revealed that the lifeboat charity had said £1.5m would be needed to make alterations to the St Abbs boat cradle in order to support the new vessel.
However, volunteers have argued that only a few bolts in the current structure need to be moved to fit the larger boat – which could be carried out at no cost.
Euan added: “People laughed when we told them that the RNLI had said £1.5m was needed to make adjustments. All it needs is for a few bolts to be unscrewed, moved along and screwed back in.
“The current cradle would fit the new boat. It doesn’t make sense.”
A spokesman for the RNLI confirmed they had received a letter from Simon Skinner, and were in the process of writing a reply.
Richard Smith, the RNLI’s Public Relations Manager for Scotland, said: “The current B class lifeboat was placed on service in 2002 and would be due to be upgraded to a bigger Atlantic 85 in 2016.
“This would require significant future investment in building works and alterations to the lifeboat station in order to house the lifeboat and provide appropriate facilities for the crew.”