SCOTLAND’S largest conservation charity has entered the battle to save St Abbs lifeboat station from the axe after writing a strong letter to the RNLI expressing “deep concern” over the closure and fears of “potentially tragic outcomes” at a popular nature reserve it owns nearby.

Simon Skinner, the chief executive of the The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), fired off the letter to RNLI chief Paul Bossier after volunteers at the station raised grave concerns that the decision to move operations to Eyemouth would put lives at risk and “rip the heart out” of the tiny Borders fishing village, which is home to the UK’s largest diving area.

In the letter obtained exclusively by The National, Skinner wrote: “On behalf of the trust, I am writing to express our deep concerns over this decision.

“We do not think the proposed closure, and subsequent reliance on an Eyemouth-based lifeboat, is appropriate in the current context.

“In short, my colleagues and I are greatly concerned that the lifeboat reaction time would be substantially reduced in an increasingly busy area, thereby leading to potentially tragic outcomes.

“We would therefore like to invite you to reconsider your decision about St Abbs lifeboat.”

He went on to explain to Bossier why closure was a bad idea, highlighting the fact that St Abb’s Head forms part of Scotland’s only voluntary marine reserve and that since the NTS bought the land in 1980, they had watched the area’s international reputation and the number of visitors grow.

Skinner, former chief at pension provider Aegon Ireland, who took the helm at NTS from predecessor Kate Mavor on June 8, said their National Nature Reserve attracts over 45,000 visitors, drawn by the diverse marine life and seabird colonies St Abb’s Head is famous for.

He added: “The upshot is that we have many visitors who enjoy cliff-top walks, access the sea via beaches, notably at the adjacent recreational beach of Coldingham Bay, as well as those who choose to scramble down the rocks to observe wildlife and engage in sea-angling.

“Additionally, we have seen considerable growth in the number of kayakers and divers in the area.

“St Abbs is now one of the most popular dive centres on the east coast of the British Isles, with tens of thousands of dives undertaken each year.

“In recent years there has been a palpable increase in sea-traffic, not only due to dive boats and the long-standing presence of traditional creel boats, but most especially high-speed boats taking tourists on trips around the head in order to observe bird and seal colonies.

“We can only expect the public interest in these forms of recreation to grow.

“I do appreciate that you are proposing to locate a new D Class lifeboat at Eyemouth to cover St Abbs. Nevertheless, I am concerned that a boat with a maximum speed of 25 knots based two miles distant replacing a B Class lifeboat with a 32-knot speed locally in St Abbs is not an ideal situation.”

Scottish Cabinet Minister Paul Wheelhouse and new SNP MP Calum Kerr have also written to all the RNLI trustees urging for U-turn and the local community has a petition with more than 3,000 signatures calling for the station to be saved.

St Abbs lifeboat station master Alistair Crowe, who has been a volunteer for 50 years, said the involvement of the NTS could give the community fresh hope.

He said: “This is a great letter and it is brilliant to have support from such a charity as the National Trust for Scotland.

“We are glad that other people are recognising what we are trying to say about the loss of life.”

The RNLI said it planned to reply to Skinner’s letter and refused to divulge the contents of the response.

However, it did insist that the letter would not make any difference to its decision to close St Abbs station.