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SCOTLAND’S first national fire chief has promised that saving lives and community safety will remain his top priority, despite government pressure to hit daunting savings targets.

Alasdair Hay, who will earn £165,000 a year, has been told he must cut £300 million from his budget over 15 years.

The 50-year-old father of three is currently the chief in Tayside but will take on the 
national role in the autumn, with the Scotland-wide service coming into being on 1 April next year – the same date as the new Police Service of Scotland.

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Mr Hay believes the required savings are achievable and has promised to keep the Scottish Government’s promise of no compulsory redundancies. But he made it clear that saving lives comes first.

He said: “Community safety and firefighter safety are my 
priority as we go forward.

“But as we move to make those savings – and we have to make those savings – there’s going to be a rationalisation as to how we support the front line.

“I’m confident we are going to be able to make those savings and improve the service across Scotland.”

Both the police and fire services expect to reduce duplication in back-office roles, such as human resources and accounting. However, Mr Hay insisted that no-one would be forced out in the process.

“The Scottish Government has a clear policy of no compulsory redundancies,” he said. “All staff will transfer across to the new service come April.”

The initial Scottish Government plans, which required savings of £59m a year, were changed after a rebellion from firefighters, who warned that it could put lives at risk.

Since plans with more modest savings were put forward a year ago, chief fire officers have backed the merger, and post-April 2013 plans have been drawn up behind the scenes.

Mr Hay said: “We’ve been preparing for this for the past year to 18 months. A number of senior officers have been working very closely with trade unions and key stakeholders. I’ve had some oversight, but not seen the detail.”

Some stations may be seen as unnecessary, or not in the ideal location, when looked at in a 
national context.

But he added: “In the short term [there will be] no closures.”

Mr Hay’s appointment as Scotland’s first chief has been widely applauded.

Alan Paterson, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Scotland, said: “We welcome this announcement, it’s needed at this time in the reform process. We’ve worked well with him in the past and would expect to work well with him in the 
future.”

Roseanna Cunningham, community safety minister, announced the appointment yesterday at Perth Community Fire Station, which will be the interim headquarters for the new service. 

She said: “Mr Hay has the experience and attributes to be an outstanding first chief officer for the new single service.

“He has passion for the service and genuine commitment for the successful delivery of the new single structure.”

Jenny Marra, community safety spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, added: “I look forward to meeting with Mr Hay in due course to hear how the preparatory work is going and to understand what he sees as the biggest challenges facing the service.”

Mr Hay, who will take charge of 9,000 firefighters and support staff, and a £300m-a-year revenue budget, was cleared of 
neglect of duty in 2000 following the death of Amanda Duncan, 21, in a tenement fire in Dundee.

Six members of staff received cautions in an internal disciplinary hearing after it emerged her flat was initially declared empty and her body was not found until 40 minutes later.