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Rennie: Police must reconsider decision to cut ties with Sky Watch

August 15, 2013 3:45 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie MSP has called on PoliceWillie RennieWillie Rennie Scotland to reconsider their decision to cut ties with a volunteer civilian air patrol service which has helped with search operations across the country in the past.

Last month, Police Scotland confirmed that they would no longer call on the services of the UK Civil Air Patrol ('Sky Watch') to assist with searches. In the past, Sky Watch pilots have played a vital role during a range of operations, including missing persons cases.

Mr Rennie was speaking after accompanying volunteer air crew from Sky Watch on a training flight at Perth Aerodrome. After his flight, he also met with Peter McIntosh, Deputy Chairman of Sky Watch across the UK and Regional Co-ordinator for Scotland to learn more about their work throughout the country.

Commenting, Willie Rennie MSP said:

"Sky Watch have a proud record of assisting our emergency services with search operations and I was pleased to have the chance to learn more about their work this afternoon.

"When someone goes missing we need to be doing everything we can to locate them. No-one is faulting the commitment and professionalism of Police Officers around Scotland but the facts of the matter are stark. Sky Watch offer a proven service which costs Police Scotland nothing.

"What makes this decision even more baffling is that emergency services in other parts of the country have maintained their links with Sky Watch. Why should Scotland miss out on this service?

"If there are compelling operational reasons for the decision to drop Sky Watch then Police Scotland should explain them. But at the moment Sky Watch and everyone else have been left in the dark over why Police Scotland have chosen to reject this extra help. I would encourage the Chief Constable to think again and reconsider his decision."

Tony Cowan, Chairman of the UK Civil Air Patrol added:

"I am delighted that members of the Civil Air Patrol had the opportunity to meet with Mr Rennie today and demonstrate to him just some of the capability of our aircraft and crews.

"As one of the largest voluntary search organisations in Europe, with established units covering both Highland and Lowland Scotland, we are ideally placed to support local communities through aerial observation - particularly in remote & rural areas where it can preserve life and promote safety.

"We have worked closely with Police forces around the country in the past and are always keen to do what we can to support our emergency services. We would welcome the chance to discuss the future of Sky Watch in Scotland with Police chiefs in Edinburgh and hope they will reconsider their decision to cut ties with our volunteer crews so suddenly."