Local people in Moray are disappointed by an official decision to stop a party marking the retirement of RAF Lossiemouth's search and rescue helicopters , because of rules covering the general election.

In particular the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is understood to be nervous about the 'purdah' period when public bodies are restricted in what they can do or say in the weeks before an election.

The RAF's Sea King helicopters have been providing search and rescue (SAR) services on the sea and in the mountains for almost 40 years. But as from Arpil 1 they will be replaced by a civilian operation based in Inverness, operated by a private company for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Members of 202 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth had organised a farewell celebration in a pub in Elgin for the crews and the local community. But it emerged they had been ordered by the MoD to abandon the event scheduled for April 2.

Moray MP and SNP Defence Angus Robertson had hoped to attend. He said

"It is a great shame that the Moray community are being denied the opportunity to personally thank personnel from 202 Squadron. This apparent order from the Chain of Command adds insult to the injury caused by a widely opposed privatisation of this vital service. He said there was massive public respect respect for the RAF SAR crews "with the familiar yellow Sea King regularly seen in the air heading to challenging rescues in the North Sea, in the Cairngorms and further afield. "

But a spokesman for the RAF said "The SAR Force had concerns regarding the timing (purdah) and the extensive list of invitees at a proposed public event, leading to a decision being made by the SAR Force to change the format of the event. Work is underway to ascertain if an alternative event can be held on-base for invited guests with a separate event for the families of SAR personnel."