Inflatable penguins cost taxpayer £20,000

A major search and rescue operation in the North Sea which turned out to have been sparked by two inflatable penguins cost the taxpayer £20,000.

Rescue teams were scrambled to the Buchan coast in July after a member of the public reported a small aircraft in difficulty.

But the operation was abandoned when lifeboat crews discovered the "wreckage" was nothing more than two 3ft balloons.

Yesterday figures for the operation were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The operation involved two coastguard crews, a lifeboat and an RAF Sea King helicopter.

Bill Speirs, coastal safety manager for East Scotland and Ireland, said: "We can't take any chances."

Huge bill for false alarm (The Scotsman, 30 August 2008)