Yousaf ‘burying head in the sand’ over fire service funding, says Sarwar

The Scottish Labour leader said the First Minister was ‘ignoring warnings that his Government is putting lives at risk’.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has accused the First Minister of “burying his head in the sand” over funding to the fire service.

This week a report from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) described the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) as being “in crisis”.

The service has already announced it will need to save £14m next year, which could result in the loss of more than 300 firefighters.

The Scottish Government’s Resource Spending Review, which was published last year, projected a flat cash settlement of £294m annually until 2026-27 – although the 2023-24 budget allocated the service £363.7m.

Challenging Humza Yousaf at First Minister’s Questions, Sarwar pointed to the report, which said there had been a 22% real-terms cut in resource funding for the service since 2012-13.

The First Minister did not accept Sarwar’s criticisms, saying the SFRS budget had risen and the number of fires had fallen by 14% during that period.

Responding, the Scottish Labour leader said: “The First Minister is saying firefighters are wrong and he’s burying his head in the sand.

“The fire service budget is set by the Government and it has fallen by 22% in real terms over the past decade.”

Sarwar also quoted Chief Officer Ross Haggart, who said as many as 780 jobs could be lost if the Government does not increase funding.

He added: “This Government’s financial mismanagement is already affecting every part of our fire service, which is suffering from a decade of neglect.

“In the past 10 years, hundreds of firefighters have been lost and now a dozen appliances are being removed and the First Minister is ignoring warnings that his Government is putting lives at risk.”

Yousaf said the number of appliances being removed was just 1.5% of the total number, accusing the Scottish Labour leader of “spin”.

“The facts are that since 2017-18, there’s been substantial year-on-year increases in funding to support the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service,” Yousaf said.

“On top of that, we have more firefighters per 10,000 of the population than other parts of the UK.”

He added: “We continue to invest in our fire service and I want to thank and pay tribute to the FBU, to our firefighters on the ground and I’ll continue to give them a promise that so long as we are in Government, we will continue to ensure that they get the investment that they need to keep our public safe.”

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