‘Radical’ investment in firefighter numbers needed, union warns

Scotland has “nowhere near enough” firefighters to curb the impact of “severe” cuts sustained over the past decade, a union has warned.

Calls for more firefighters have been made.

Figures obtained by the Fire Brigades Union show there are 917 fewer firefighters across the country than there were in 2010, with close to 11,500 cut across the UK over the same period.

The union said that, at a time when climate change is placing additional demands on the service, with a spate of wildfires across the country, there was a need for “radical investment” in recruitment.

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The statistics, obtained via freedom of information legislation, show that the number of firefighters rose by 197 over the past year, an increase of 3 per cent.

While Scotland has fared better than the rest of the UK, with numbers being cut in Wales and Northern Ireland, and increasing by just a single percentage point in England, the union said more needs to be done.

Chris McGlone, the FBU’s executive council member for Scotland, said: “Firefighter numbers in Scotland have been slashed over the last decade. This incremental increase in posts is nowhere near enough to make up the difference.

“The need for firefighters is clearly only increasing as climate change impacts Scotland. We need a radical investment in firefighter recruitment to keep the public safe.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack added: “Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps.

“We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised.”

Firefighters in Scotland are pushing for a fresh pay offer, after experiencing a real-terms pay cut over the last decade.

The FBU’s members rejected a proposal from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) at a series of staff meetings in July, raising concerns about the expansion of firefighters’ roles and the reduction or loss of additional payments currently available.

Mr McGlone added: “Pay for firefighters has been restrained for too long. The massive reduction in firefighter numbers has seen every firefighter take on a heavier workload. We need a real-terms pay rise for firefighters that is both fair and serious.”

A spokeswoman for the SFRS said: “We are continuing to work with the Fire Brigades Union to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of our firefighters and communities throughout Scotland.”