Council chiefs hit out at minister's services plan

Council leaders have accused a Scottish Government minister of adopting a "heavy-handed approach" to the running of vital fire and rescue services.

Local authority body Colsa hit out at Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing after he proposed changes in the way decisions are made.

The minister said it would be "right and responsible" for fire and rescue authorities to discuss plans for large-scale projects, changes to their frontline and control room provision, and senior appointments and promotions with a body that advises Scottish Government ministers and officials.

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However a Cosla spokesman said fire and rescue was a "key local government service", adding: "The minister demonstrates a heavy-handed approach, completely ignoring current local governance arrangements. This letter is clearly designed to make clear where he believes power should lie in terms of the future running of the fire service.

"The centralism agenda is clear with apparently all future fire service proposals to first be discussed ... through an unelected official: the head of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Advisory Unit."

He continued: "Key decisions regarding large-scale projects, principal officer appointments, changes to the frontline, control rooms and personnel are all ones that should be made by the local politicians who have responsibility for the service."

A government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government and our partners Cosla and local government are collectively considering the most effective way of delivering fire and rescue services in the future.

"As a key part of these discussions, ministers requested that individual service proposals for short-term spend or changes to operational delivery are also considered in partnership to ensure they align with long-term ambitions. The proposal requires further dialogue and ministers are very happy to engage in that."