Scottish ministers told ‘emergency plan’ needed to save fire and rescue service
Ministers have been urged to come forward with an emergency plan to “save” the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) after a “decade of cuts”.
Labour made the call as the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) prepares to hold a mass rally in Glasgow’s George Square on Thursday.
The SFRS has said it will need to cut staff to meet savings targets. As part of a £11 million package of cuts, second or third appliances are being withdrawn from ten stations across Scotland from next month. There are also plans to remove the 24-hour permanently crewed rescue boat on the River Clyde.
The FBU argues the fire service has made several cuts over the last decade, with the loss of more than 1,100 firefighter jobs, the closure of five control rooms and a 14 per cent increase in response time per incident.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour research has found nearly half of all stations in the country are assessed as being in “bad” or “poor” condition.
Katy Clark, the party’s spokeswoman for community safety, said: “A decade of cuts has hollowed out our fire service, with response times worsening, stations in disrepair and hundreds of jobs lost.
“The combination of withdrawn appliances, understaffing and a dilapidated estate means firefighters, who put their lives on the line and are already exposed to dangerous fire contaminants in their job, are being put seriously at risk. Ultimately, that also puts our communities at risk, with response time per incident increasing by 14 per cent in the past ten years.
“Scottish Labour’s message is that enough is enough. These latest cuts should be revoked and the Scottish Government must come forward with an emergency plan to save our fire service.”
SFRS assistant chief officer David Farries previously said safety is “always a priority” for the service, adding: “We will always maintain fire cover and can draw upon our national resources to maintain resilience and protect communities.”
He said: “Like all public services, we are operating in a challenging financial period and require to make £11 million savings this year.”
He added: “However, not all decisions are financially driven and we also need to modernise as a service. It’s right and proper that we adapt and identify efficiencies to deliver value for money while maintaining operational resilience.”
The fire service has a policy of no compulsory redundancies.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is a vital service which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing it with more than £368 million this year, an increase of £14.4 million on 2023/23. We are also maintaining front-line services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK and we are pleased firefighters have also recently accepted an improved pay offer.”
In June, the FBU said it would be “lobbying the Scottish Government, MSPs and local councillors to alert them to this crisis and seek their support to bring about change”, adding: “There is no hiding place for our elected representatives any more, this is too important for that.”
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