THE UK’s only search and rescue co-ordination centre is to be moved from Kinloss barracks in Moray to Fareham on the south coast of England as part of a controversial shake-up of services, the UK government has announced.
A total of 27 RAF posts and ten civilian posts will be affected by the decision to remove the centre, which deals with more than 2,000 incidents a year, such as call-outs at sea and mountain rescues.
The centre assists the emergency services by co-ordinating their response to major incidents and sends out RAF Sea King helicopters from bases across the UK, with the civilian coastguard also dispatched to potentially life-threatening incidents.
Nimrod aircraft were previously sent to emergencies from RAF Kinloss, before the cancellation of the Nimrod contract and the closure of the air base in 2012, which then became the Kinloss barracks.
Officials confirmed yesterday that the transfer of the service, called the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre, from Scotland to England would be complete by autumn next year.
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The UK government stated that transferring the centre would lead to a “better service for those in distress” with a new faster helicopter to improve response times to emergencies.
There will be no compulsory military redundancies, although it is unclear whether the civilian jobs at Kinloss will be saved when the base moves to the south of England.
However, SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson described the removal of the centre that has been at Kinloss since 1997 as “devastating” for air and sea rescue services in Scotland.
Mr Robertson, whose Moray constituency covers the rescue centre, said the Coalition had delayed the decision until after the independence referendum, and accused the UK government of a “cynical approach” to the issue.
He went on to claim that Scotland had been forced to accept a “disproportionate” share of defence cuts, with the closure of two air bases – Kinloss and RAF Leuchars in Fife – which he said had led to the loss of more than 50 per cent of RAF personnel north of the Border.
He said: “This is devastating news for the personnel at Kinloss, for Moray and for Scotland more generally.
“It is the latest in a series of disproportionate MoD cuts to defence bases, capabilities and personnel.
“Two out of 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.”
A UK government spokesman said: “The new UK search and rescue service will use brand-new faster helicopters to cut average response times and provide a more reliable service.”
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