Today I asked an urgent question in the Scottish Parliament following reports from the BBC that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service plans to close fire stations and reduce firefighter numbers.
These reports are concerning; it is vital that any ‘transformation’ of our emergency services is carried out in response to evaluating risk. However, reports point to these changes being made as the result of a squeeze on resources.
Audit Scotland have previously warned of a £43 million budget gap, the leaked report claims that our fire service is facing “the greatest financial challenge seen in decades” and the Chief Fire Officer has admitted that the current model is “unsustainable” and could not last beyond the current financial year.
When the single Fire and Rescue Service was created, we were promised by the Scottish Government that frontline fire services would be protected. These papers show that is not the case.
Since its creation in 2013, £53 million has been cut in real terms, including a real terms cut to their resource budget last year. There are 700 fewer firefighters and 60-100 on call pumps are unavailable each day.
With the news of cuts to frontline firefighters being planned and the closure of stations being discussed, it is clear that this Scottish Government is not protecting frontline services. The hardworking and dedicated staff in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service deserve better.
You can read the question on the Scottish Parliament website.