Weeks on from the announcement, I remain baffled by the decision of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to renege on their longstanding commitment to base a Shannon-class vessel in Arbroath. And that is despite having had a meeting with the organisation to try and develop an understanding of their rationale.
I appreciate the reasoning behind their having a 36 knot Atlantic boat located somewhere in the Tay area. Across Montrose, Anstruther, Arbroath and Broughty Ferry there is a strong case for having a fast response vessel in the mix.
But from earlier discussions that Dave Doogan MP and I had with the RNLI some months back, everything seemed to point to the Ferry being the logical base for it – with the Shannon coming to Arbroath. I would go as far as to say it appeared a no-brainer.
However, that is not the position that’s been reached.
While I understand it was marginal decision between Arbroath and the Ferry, and that the increasing volume and nature of traffic in and out of Dundee was in the latter’s favour, I still can’t quite get my head around the outcome.
Whatever vessels travel to and from Dundee will, of course, pass Arbroath. Therefore, like many folk in the town, I am struggling to understand a decision viewed locally as both a downgrading and a betrayal of the station, crew and community considering the support and service given to the RNLI.
In the follow-up meeting Dave Doogan and I had with them in the aftermath of the announcement, we of course sought to have the decision revisited – and, in doing so, to convey the damage it has done to their relationship with the community. Despite our best efforts, I don’t think we succeeded in improving their grasp of the strength of feeling in Arbroath.
They were adamant that the decision won’t be changed – their focus now being on winning over the hearts and minds of the lifeboat crew in terms of accepting the Atlantic class vessel. The only positive to come out of our discussions was an indication that planning for a replacement station is being progressed.
I would like to think we might yet see a U-turn. But as that would involve back-tracking on the commitment given to Broughty Ferry, with all the upset that would create, sadly I am not optimistic.