Fire service cuts lead to crisis in Scottish Fire and Rescue Service


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In a new report published on 24 October by the Fire Brigades Union, concerns have been raised about the deteriorating state of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

Impact of a decade of cuts

Since its establishment just over ten years ago, the SFRS has seen a reduction of over 1200 positions.

The forecast suggests another 780 jobs could be at risk in the forthcoming years due to a five-year, flat cash budget proposal from the Scottish Government.

Fire service cuts result in reduced resources

This year has witnessed the withdrawal of 10 fire vehicles, including additional high-reach units and the permanently crewed river rescue boat on the Clyde.

Such reductions have inevitably left communities with diminished emergency coverage.

At the same time, there’s a noted increase in response times.

Moreover, firefighters now face an escalating number of wildfires and flood incidents due to the ongoing climate emergency.

The “Firestorm” report highlights numerous issues including:

  • Insufficient staffing.
  • Outdated equipment.
  • Deteriorating infrastructure.
  • Declining training standards.
  • An older workforce facing exposure to hazardous substances.

One key point of contention is that these issues appear to be dismissed by political leaders.

They often attribute service reductions to ‘operational decisions for SFRS management’, implying they bear no responsibility.

‘A damning picture of underinvestment’

John McKenzie, the Scottish Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, commented: “This state of the nation report into the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service paints a damning picture of underinvestment, declining standards and job losses, all which increases the risk to firefighters and the public we serve.

“We cannot go on like this, our members and the public have had enough.”

He added: “If the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is to meet the challenges of our times we need immediate and radical change and this report sets out what that should look like.

“This report is full of ideas that would help reverse the catastrophic decline in a once proud service.

“There are over 50 recommendations that have come from those who know the service best, the firefighters who work on the frontline in fire stations and control rooms across the country.”

Furthermore, he stressed: “They want to be the best that they can be, they want trained to highest possible standards, to work in a service that has the required resources to respond quickly to emergency situations, and is equipped to meet the challenges of our times, paid appropriately for the stressful work they do and to work in a welcoming, supportive organisation.”

McKenzie concluded by addressing the political leaders: “Over the last decade we have been failed by political leaders who have tried to ignore this crisis.

“They cannot ignore us now. It is now up to the Scottish Government, the SFRS management and all political parties to respond positively to this report, reverse the cuts and help build a Fire and Rescue Service that aspires to be world-leading.”

IFSJ Comment

The situation depicted by the Fire Brigades Union report underscores the dire consequences of consistent underinvestment in essential emergency services.

As the world grapples with the impacts of the climate crisis, the need for a robust and well-equipped fire service becomes ever more critical.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s current state, as portrayed in this report, leaves communities at heightened risk.

It is imperative for political leaders and decision-makers to heed this urgent call, ensuring the safety of both the public and the firefighters dedicated to serving them.

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