A public meeting heard on Thursday that it was the ‘last chance saloon’ to save Peterhead’s Fishermen’s Mission.
Around 40 people attended the meeting, which was convened by campaigner Stephen Bruce, in a bid to save the popular Mission building, which has been put on the market by the RNMDSF.
Welcoming the group, Mr Bruce said that it was important firstly to clarify that the work of Mission Superintendent Steve Murray and his staff would continue in Peterhead, even if the building was sold.
But he stressed that the Mission building was not only important to fishermen, but was an integral part of the Blue Toon community.
“The ‘for sale’ signs are now up and anything can happen, but we cannot let it go without a fight,” he said.
The Mission has been part of the Blue Toon for many decades, moving from Charlotte Street to its present location on Union Street where it has been since the 1960s.
“It’s not just the fishing community that uses it - several groups including the Kedron Choir, Sunday Nightcap, Mothers and Toddlers, ladies guild, Street Pastors, retired fishermen, Buchanness Yacht Club, the table tennis club and Jogscotland all make use of this facility during the year.
“It’s also used by international fishermen as a base, and provides accommodation in case of emergency at sea.
“It’s a vital part of our community,” he said.
Fisherman Andrew Buchan, who has been working for the past 18 months on a bid to save the Mission, then took to the floor.
He told the gathering: “About 18 months ago we tried to set up a charity fund with a small committee of willing volunteers and we made an application for charity status. Unfortunately that was declined as under new charity rules the Mission did not qualify for charitable status.
“We appealed, but again we received the same answer. We now need to form a trust to take over ownership of the building.”
Mr Bruce said that it was hoped to form a Trust board in the next couple of weeks and also form a fundraising committee.
“When I spoke to the Mission chief executive about this meeting tonight he assured me that no-one had been looking at the building and he said it could lie for quite a while, but I’m sure if we started fundraising now I think this can be done,” he said.
“The building will probably have to have a full survey done on it, but in the short-term we want to just save it so that we have time to decide how we want to move forward.”
Concerns were raised at the meeting that no discussions regarding the purchase had been held with the RNMDSF itself.
It was suggested that perhaps negotiations could be carried out asking what price would be accepted for the building and how long the Mission would give the fundraisers to achieve that target.
“The fact that the building is on the open market means that anyone can purchase it at any time, so we really need to get something in writing from the Mission regarding a bid from this group,” said one gentleman.
Mr Bruce replied: “I’ve spoken to the Mission and they said if anyone came in with an offer they would let us know. They said that they would look favourably on a group like us and that they were ‘open to offers’.”
However, it was felt that it was important to get something in writing from the Mission to confirm this.
Mr Bruce said that he would speak to the Mission regarding this and start negotiations immediately. A further meeting will also be held on Tuesday, August 2, where it is hoped that a steering group can be formed to move the project forward.