Finance secretary Shona Robison has been warned she is “in the last chance saloon” and that firefighters could take strike action in the New Year unless more cash is found for the service in the upcoming Scottish budget.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has insisted that the situation with funding for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is now “critical” and “cannot be ignored”.
John McKenzie, FBU Scottish secretary, has now urged Ms Robison to use the budget on December 19 to take urgent action to reverse what the union described as a “decade of cuts that have resulted in the loss of over 1,200 jobs, the withdrawal of frontline fire appliances and a huge backlog of repairs and maintenance to fire stations”.
Mr McKenzie said: “The situation is critical and cannot be ignored. The Finance Secretary is in the last chance saloon.
“Shona Robison must provide a significant increase in the budget for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service if we are to avoid strike action in 2024.
“Our members are not prepared to sit back and watch more jobs go and the service reduced to a shell through year-on-year cuts.”
At a rally in October, FBU members gathered outside Holyrood to urge the Government not to impose a flat cash allocation on the service in the forthcoming budget, and to make more funding available.
There, FBU Scotland chairman Gus Sproul said the SFRS had cut more than 1,200 jobs since it was established in 2013, with the union predicting another 780 posts could be lost in the “near future” without improved financial support.
SFRS chief officer Ross Haggart has also spoken out to highlight the “ongoing financial challenges” the service faces, adding that “difficult decisions will have to be made without investment”.
Mr Haggart has previously told MSPs at Holyrood that the SFRS could have make to make savings of between £14 million and £26 million next year, which could see the withdrawal of 18 appliances.
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 years of UK Government austerity and high inflation caused by the mini budget, we are providing SFRS with more than £368 million this year, an increase of £14.4 million on 2022-23.
“The Deputy First Minister said previously that the UK Government’s autumn statement delivered the ‘worst case scenario’ for Scotland’s finances.
“Ministers are assessing the full implications of that statement and the budget for 2024-25, including the resource and capital allocations for SFRS which will be announced on 19 December.”
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