MILITARY bosses have ordered search and rescue RAF helicopter heroes to halt a farewell celebration marking their “retirement”.
The 202 D Flight Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth had organised a party to thank the community for their staunch support and say a final goodbye following the controversial UK government decision to close their unit.
But the planned farewell has now been cancelled after search and rescue chiefs claimed it would fall foul of campaigning rules for the upcoming general election, as it could be perceived as political.
The decision has angered the Moray community, including local MP and SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, who said: “It is a great shame that the Moray community are being denied the opportunity to personally thank personnel from 202 D Flt Search and Rescue.
“This apparent order from the MoD adds insult to injury from a widely opposed privatisation of this vital service. There is massive respect from the public in Moray and right across Scotland for the RAF and especially for D Flight, with the familiar yellow Sea King regularly seen in the air heading to challenging rescues in the North Sea, the Cairngorms and further afield.
“It is crass and inexplicable to prevent this being marked and the gratitude we share being properly expressed.”
The Sea Kings, a familiar sight over Scottish skies for four decades, are being mothballed and replaced with helicopters run by the private sector. They will be taken out of service next week and replaced by modern, faster helicopters operated by Bristow Helicopters. All 40 Sea Kings operating in the UK, including the two based in Lossiemouth, will be flown south and retired from service when the AugustaWestland AW189s take to the sky.
The organisers of the party said in a post online: “It is with the utmost regret that we have to inform you all that D Flight has been ordered to cancel the event at the Drouthy Cobbler on 2 April.
“Please be aware we are still eternally grateful for all the support we have received from you all over the decades and we wish you all the best for the future.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the event fell into the category known as “purdah” considered potentially political – as MPs, MSPs and media had been invited – in the run-up to a general election, banning campaigning involving state agencies six weeks prior to the vote.
He said: “The SAR Force had concerns regarding the timing and the extensive list of invitees at a proposed public event, leading to a decision being made by the SAR Force to change the format of the event. Work is underway to ascertain if an alternative event can be held on-base for invited guests with a separate event for the families of SAR personnel.”
An online petition, signed by over 1,300 people, asks the MoD to reverse the decision.
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