Emergency cover row after jet crash
The Ministry of Defence has dismissed suggestions that proposed cuts could endanger the public after two RAF pilots were plucked from the sea by a closure-threatened rescue operation.
The Tornado crew, from RAF Lossiemouth, ejected from the GR4 jet into the sea off the west coast of Scotland on Thursday.
The plane went down into the water at Loch Ewe, near Gairloch, Wester Ross.
The two pilots were airlifted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness by a Coastguard helicopter, whose station at Stornoway is under threat of closure. The rescue was co-ordinated from RAF Kinloss, which is to close under the Government spending cuts programme.
The decision was made to close the Moray air base after a new fleet of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft that would have been based there was also axed.
The SNP defence spokesman at Westminster, Angus Robertson, who is also MP for Moray, said cutting and closing Scotland's military and coastguard facilities was "madness" and called on Westminster to "think again".
He said: "These Tory cuts are putting lives at risk on land and sea. This rescue was co-ordinated from a centre at Kinloss which faces closure, involved a rescue helicopter from Stornoway whose station is threatened with closure, and involved a tug boat service which is also being axed.
"It is not difficult to see what is at stake, and how serious these cuts could be in terms of emergency responses."
But a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "The safety of the public is of paramount importance and we praise the efforts of all those involved in this incident.
"It is wrong to suggest that the public will be at risk under future arrangements of search and rescue. No decision has yet been made."