THOUSANDS of pounds raised for a lifeboat station during a major fundraiser at the weekend will be withheld from the RNLI in protest over its closure.

The defiant close-knit community went ahead with their Lifeboat Day in the Scottish Borders fishing village of St Abbs despite the charity’s decision to shut it down after the summer for “operational reasons”.

However, this year the event took on a different format with the lifeboat station remaining closed to the public but campaigning locals still managed to raise a record £5,000 which will be plunged into the campaign to save the station.

St Abbs is the UK’s largest diving area and attracts thousands of divers every year as well as surfers, fishing enthusiasts and walkers who enjoy the St Abb’s Head National Trust for Scotland (NTS) nature reserve.

Crew committee member Euan Gibson said: “Lifeboat Day means absolutely everything to this community and has done for a very long time.

“Normally the village would raise the money for the RNLI but with a shadow hanging over us at the moment we decided to hold a gala day to raise funds for the campaign.

“The hope is that the RNLI will change its mind, in which case the money raised will go to the charity, if not it will go to either local charities or if we decide to go down a different route regarding setting up our own lifeboat station we will keep the money for that.

“St Abbs community raises about £10,000 for the RNLI every year and the station costs about £27,000 annually to run, so it is about £17,000 to run – it is a very, very cheap station. The average running costs for a station like this is about £70,000 so that’s why we can’t understand why they are closing it.”

Despite warnings that the closure would put lives at risk from the crew, locals, politicians, the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Sub Aqua Club, the RNLI has vowed to carry on regardless and move the operation to Eyemouth, almost five miles away.

The crew has challenged the RNLI’s claims it would cost £1.5million to keep the station open and insisted it would require the removal of a few bolts because it has already been adapted to take a larger Atlantic 85 boat.

The community has also gathered 7,000 signatures for the “Save St Abbs Lifeboat Station” petition and sold 1,000 T-shirts supporting the campaign.

Scotland’s community safety minister and South Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse said: “This has the feel of an organisation that has made a mistake and refuses to accept. I have the greatest respect for the RNLI and the bravery of everybody involved in the service but I think the management have made a terrible mistake and they are just digging their heels in.

“You can tell from being here just how important diving and marine tourism is to this area. To have a single lifeboat in Eyemouth covering the whole coast between Dunbar and beyond Berwick is a really serious mistake.

“That mistake could cost lives. I think if they were to change their minds now, it wouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness, it would be seen as an organisation that is willing to listen to the expertise of the crew, the concerns of the public, divers, surfers, walkers, fishing enthusiasts and the NTS.

“Ultimately, if they don’t change their minds it could be disastrous. We are doing everything we can to save the RNLI from the trauma of realising that somebody down the line dies because of their decision. I really hope I am wrong but I think that will happen. I urge them to please review this decision.”

The St Abbs Atlantic 75 boat was due to be replaced by a larger 85 model next year and the crew said the Barr Family Trust had agreed to fund the costs.

However, bothWheelhouse and Gibson said there would be outrage if the Atlantic 85 bound for St Abbs appeared in Eyemouth after the closure.

Wheelhouse added: “If an Atlantic 85 appears in Eyemouth after this station is closed, the RNLI’s reputation will in the dirt permanently in this part of the world.

“The D Class boat they are putting at Eyemouth isn’t going to be good enough because a D class used to be here but it was taken away 36 years ago because it wasn’t deemed to be good enough for this stretch of coastline.”