The UK’s air rescue co-ordination centre is to be moved from Scotland to Fareham to create a single air and sea rescue hub, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.
The UK Aeronautical Rescue and Co-ordination Centre (ARCC), currently based at Kinloss Barracks in Moray, will be moved to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham.
A Government spokeswoman said: “The relocation of the 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 providing a more reliable overall service.”
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has described the move as “devastating news for the personnel at Kinloss, for Moray and for Scotland more generally”.
Westminster SNP leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson, whose Moray constituency is home to Kinloss Barracks and the rescue centre, said: “It is the latest in a series of disproportionate MoD cuts to defence bases, capabilities and personnel.
“Two out three Scottish air bases 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.”
Scotland’s Veterans Secretary Keith Brown said: “We are extremely disappointed with this latest announcement and are seeking assurances from the UK Government that search-and-rescue provision in and around Scotland will not be compromised as a result of any closure.
“The rescue co-ordination centre at Kinloss has been in place since 1997 and, on average, assists more than 2,000 people across the UK every year.
“That shows how important the facility is and underlines the need to make sure the public continue to be protected, and that Scotland’s coastline continues to be properly covered for search-and-rescue operations.
“These cuts come on top of the UK Government’s cuts to the Coastguard Service that were strongly opposed by Scottish ministers.
“We remain concerned that staffing levels have been reported at below risk-assessed levels across the maritime rescue co-ordination centres that cover Scotland and hope that the MCA is taking measures to address this, and particularly that there is no risk of a similar situation in relation to this closure.”
Labour MP Gemma Doyle said: “This is the wrong choice for the search and rescue centre and the wrong choice for Kinloss.
“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.”