“We cannot go on like this” Firefighters warn of impact of cuts

Scotland’s firefighters and their supporters, including MSPs, demonstrated outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 26th of October following the publication of a report on the state of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service – Firestorm

The report says that a combination of cuts, a lack of recruitment, the crisis in the ‘On Call’ service, declining training standards and the climate emergency have created the perfect conditions for a devastating ‘Firestorm’. 

Since its inception just over a decade ago the SFRS has cut over 1200 jobs with fire service bosses predicting another 780 could go in the near future due to a 5 year, flat cash budget settlement from the Scottish Government. 

This year alone has seen 10  fire appliances plus a number of additional high reach vehicles and the permanently crewed river rescue boat on the Clyde withdrawn from stations leaving communities with reduced emergency  cover. 

Commenting on the report John McKenzie, Scottish Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union said:

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

“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.

“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. 

“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.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant outside the Scottish Parliament with the large demonstration by Scotland’s firefighters

Leader of the Labour party in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, responded to the report. He said 

“Fire service cuts are putting lives at risk but the First Minister is burying his head in the sand. The Fire Service budget is set by this Government and it has fallen by 22% in real terms over the past decade, putting 780 firefighter posts are at risk.

“This would have an impact on response times and when fighting a fire, every second counts. In the past ten years hundreds of fire fighters have been lost. Now, a dozen appliances are being removed and the First Minister is ignoring warnings that his Government is putting lives at risk. 

“When the single fire service was created the SNP said that it would, and I quote, not result in ‘cutting front line services’. It’s clear now that was either SNP spin or SNP incompetence. The First Minister must listen to firefighters on the ground about how to keep people safe.”

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Green MSP for North East Scotland was also at the FBU demonstration and spoke at the rally.

Maggie Chapman speaking from the top of a bus at the rally
Maggie Chapman Scottish Green MSP speaking at the FBU demonstration

Commenting on her Facebook page she said:

“I was proud to address and stand alongside our firefighters at the Fire Brigades Union Scotland rally outside the Scottish Parliament this morning. Our fire service must have the facilities, equipment, training, and staff it needs to continue to save lives. Solidarity!”

The report offers up practical recommendations based on the extensive experience of serving firefighters.

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