Firefighters in rally to warn budget cuts threaten ‘disaster’

FBU members have called on the Scottish Government to reverse its five-year, flat cash budget allocation for the fire service.

Firefighters rally outside Holyrood to warn budget cuts threaten ‘disaster’ PA Media

Firefighters have staged a rally demanding the Scottish Government takes urgent action to end a decade of cuts they say have left the service facing “disaster”.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said members will be left with no choice but to “consider all options” if ministers ignore the “multiple crises” facing the service.

Firefighters gathered outside Holyrood in Edinburgh on Thursday to call on the Government to reverse its five-year, flat cash budget allocation.

The union warned that if this is not changed, there will be further widespread job losses and service cuts that will endanger the lives of firefighters and the communities they serve.

FBU Scotland chairman Gus Sproul said: “Since its inception just over a decade ago, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has cut over 1,200 jobs.

“The FBU in Scotland are predicting that if there is no improvement in the budget from the Scottish Government, another 780 could go in the near future.

“Only this week major house fires at East Kilbride and Lochgelly have shown the devastating consequences of delayed incident response times or under-crewing.

“We have been making our case repeatedly to Scottish Government ministers, but even with the chief fire officer admitting how devastating this budget will be, we are still being ignored.”

The rally comes after the Firestorm report, published by the FBU earlier this week, found Scotland’s fire service is in “crisis”, with low morale, under-investment and budget cuts impacting severely on firefighters’ ability to respond effectively to serious and life-threatening incidents.

Speaking at the rally, Mr Sproul said: “This show of strength by our members and the explosive Firestorm report we published earlier this week means we cannot be ignored any longer.

“If the Scottish Government continues to ignore the multiple crises facing the service, our members will be left with no option but to consider all options to force political leaders to wake up to the disaster that is befalling what should be a well-trained, well-equipped and well-resourced public service.”

SFRS chief officer Ross Haggart said: “In terms of the future of the service, we have been clear that we must modernise to ensure we are best-placed to meet the changing risk and demand we face across Scotland, while also addressing our ongoing financial challenges.

“This is undoubtedly a challenging time for the public sector in Scotland and we are not immune to this – we’ve been clear that difficult decisions will have to be made without investment.

“However any permanent changes now or in the future will only be made following full engagement and consultation with all our stakeholders, including the FBU.”

He said the safety of Scotland’s communities and firefighters “will always be of paramount importance to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service”.

He added: “We have received the Fire Brigades Union report and remain committed to working in partnership with the FBU, particularly in addressing some of the issues raised in their recommendations.

“We are also committed to continuing the good work we are jointly progressing in relation to training, decontamination and on-call recruitment and retention.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Firefighters play a vital role in protecting our communities and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has continued to deliver the high standard of services required to keep Scotland safe.

“That is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing SFRS with more than £368m this year, an increase of £14.4m on 2022-23.

“Whilst the allocation of resources, along with the recruitment and retention of firefighters, is an operational matter for SFRS, we are maintaining frontline services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK.

“Ministers will continue engaging with the FBU to discuss their concerns.”

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