Scrapping St Abbs lifeboat ‘risks lives’

RNLI volunteer from St Abbs receives Bronze medal for saving a life-2
RNLI volunteer from St Abbs receives Bronze medal for saving a life-2

Divers, surfers, kayakers and swimmers could all be put at risk, it was claimed this week after a decision to close the lifeboat station at St Abbs.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution intends shutting the station this summer following a review on best use of resources – as a charity it depends on donations.

The proposals will see a D-class rigid inflatable inshore lifeboat join the existing bigger vessel at Eyemouth station, just two miles from St Abbs, after the review showed this could safely and effectively cover the area.

But there is real anger in the small community of St Abbs, where many make their living from tourism, fishing and watersports such as diving.

In protest, St Abbs lifeboat crew members have handed in their pagers, stating they will not respond to calls from the RNLI, and intend using their own boats in an emergency.

Angus Skene was Deputy Launching Authority for the St Abbs station, but says his 35-year career as an RNLI volunteer ended on Monday with news of the closure.

“This closure will cost lives, of that there is no doubt. Among the 13 or 14 volunteer crew, we have guys with 50, 40 and 30 years’ experience, and knowledge of the sea round here – and that is vital in emergencies. Yet the RNLI is throwing all that away.”

David Fuller-Shapcott, of the Borders Water Rescue Team, said: “The St Abbs area draws a huge number of people, not just divers, but many tourists as well and the closure of this station will be a big blow from the safety cover point of view.”

Alastair Innes, vice-chair of Kelso Sub Aqua Club, agrees: “The Eyemouth lifeboat might be just 10 minutes away, but that’s a long time if someone is in danger of drowning or a diver is missing. Response time is vital.”

The St Abbs lifeboat has saved 226 lives since it opened in 1911 and five silver and one bronze medal for gallantry have been awarded to crew members over the years.

RNLI operations director George Rawlinson said the closure decision was not taken lightly: “We understand this will be disappointing for our crew, supporters and the community at St Abbs.”

A public meeting about the closure will be held in St Abbs village hall at 6pm on May 29.