NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Kinloss rescue co-ordination centre closure announced

RAF helicopter Image copyright MoD/Crown
Image caption The centre has been responsible for co-ordinating searches

The search and rescue co-ordination centre at Kinloss in Moray is to close, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

A total of 27 RAF posts and 10 civilian posts are said to be affected by the relocation to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham.

The Kinloss centre co-ordinates RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard search and rescue helicopters, as well as the RAF mountain rescue service.

SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson described the news as ''devastating".

He said it was "the latest in a series of disproportionate MoD cuts to defence bases, capabilities and personnel".

The MoD said there would be no compulsory military redundancies as a result of the closure, and personnel would be assigned to other duties across the UK.

'Better service'

It said the move to Fareham, between Southampton and Portsmouth on the south coast of England, would improve the UK's search and rescue services.

A UK government spokesman said: "The relocation of the aeronautical rescue co-ordination centre (ARCC) to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham will combine the aeronautical and maritime rescue co-ordination functions, resulting in a better service for those in distress.

"The new UK search and rescue service will use brand-new, faster helicopters to cut average response times and provide a more reliable overall service."

The spokesman insisted that the "defence commitment to Scotland is clear".

He added: "By 2020, Scotland will be home to one of three Royal Navy main bases - including all its submarines - one of the British Army's seven Adaptable Force Brigades, and one of three Royal Air Force fast jet main operating bases.

"Just last week the defence secretary visited the new aircraft carriers being built in Rosyth. While there, he confirmed that the Type 26 frigates will be built on the Clyde - maintaining thousands of jobs in Scotland."

'Cynical approach'

However, Mr Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, said: "Two out three Scottish airbases have been cut, the entire maritime patrol fleet has been scrapped and we have the lowest military personnel numbers in Scotland in living memory.

"That the closure announcement is happening in the middle of a life-threatening storm and comes only weeks after the independence referendum tells you much about the cynical approach of the MoD and the UK government."

Gemma Doyle, Labour's Shadow Defence Minister, said the closure was the "wrong choice for the search and rescue centre and the wrong choice for Kinloss".

She added: "There is a real risk of the expertise being lost to search and rescue services. It is also very disappointing for the individuals involved.

"However, hundreds of soldiers and their families are being transferred to Kinloss, turning it into one of the biggest army bases in Scotland. This will be a huge boost to the local and regional economy."

Fishing leaders said they would seek assurances about the quality of future rescue services.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF), said the industry would want to be sure that there would be no "break" in service.

But he added: "Location is a secondary issue to the quality of communications."

RAF Kinloss closed as an air force base in 2012, and became the Kinloss Barracks.

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