DAVID Cameron has confirmed that the UK’s military air rescue co-ordination centre is to be relocated from Scotland to England, after rejecting a call for a rethink from all of Holyrood’s party leaders.
The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) will now be moved from Kinloss in Moray to Fareham, near Portsmouth, in Hampshire.
The ARCC coordinates RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard search and rescue helicopters, as well as the RAF mountain rescue service.
Around 27 RAF posts and 10 civilian posts are affected by the move, which was announced by the Ministry of Defence in December.
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had written to Downing Street asking the Prime Minister to abandon the plan but Cameron said the location of the new base at Fareham would serve the entire country more efficiently, and that ‘brand-new’ and ‘faster’ helicopters would be purchased to strengthen the new operation down south.
The SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens joined forces in December in an effort to save the centre, which figures revealed has led more than 7,300 rescues in the last three years.
A government spokesman said: ‘The relocation of the aeronautical rescue coordination centre to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham will combine the aeronautical and maritime rescue coordination 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.
‘We are extremely grateful for the vital contribution the staff at Kinloss made over many years to helping those in peril and we are taking measures to support them.’
Staff at the Kinloss base oversaw 2,488 rescues in 2011, 2,389 in 2012 and 2,482 in 2013.
Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson described the development as ‘devastating’ news for Kinloss, Moray, and Scotland as a whole.
‘David Cameron’s confirmation of the closure of the rescue centre means that vital search and rescue operations across the north of Scotland will now not be coordinated from Moray, but from hundreds of miles away in Hampshire,’ he said.
‘That cannot be allowed to threaten safety, but people will understandably have concerns about how this might affect life-saving search and rescue missions across Scotland.’
Based at Kinloss since the merger of two ARCCs in 1997, the centre assists the emergency services by coordinating RAF, Royal Navy and coastguard search and rescue helicopters, as well as mountain rescue personnel.