Scotland’s fire and rescue service is heading for a “deep and long lasting crisis” if a series of cuts are implemented, a union leader has warned.
The warning from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) came as figures were released by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) showing the extent of the cuts they expect to need to make over the next four years.
In its operational changes information pack 2023-2024, the SFRS said it would make a total of £11.07m worth of cuts this year following a “decreasing real terms budget allocation” from the Scottish Government.
The cuts would be followed by a further £11.3m in 2024 – 2025; £7.3m in 2025-2026 and £6.9m in 2026-2027.
Among the cuts being made to “meet immediate financial challenges”, the document outlined that reductions would be implemented at fire stations across Scotland where fire appliances and staff are being withdrawn.
The Fire Brigades Union said that it “makes it clear that further job losses across the service will be central to the financial strategy going forward”.
John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the FBU, said: “The fire service in Scotland is heading for a deep and long lasting crisis. We are already seeing fire appliances being withdrawn, jobs lost and response times to life threatening incidents increasing.
“In this latest document SFRS says that, ‘we cannot realistically reduce costs without reducing workforce numbers.’ I want to make it crystal clear to the Scottish Government and SFRS board – FBU members across Scotland will not stand by and accept our service being cut to bone, jobs lost and community safety compromised.
“The Scottish Government must immediately provide more money for this essential public service.”
Assistant chief officer David Farries, SFRS director of service delivery said: “We need to continue to modernise and adapt our service to ensure that we are best placed to protect the people of Scotland.
“Clearly we must deliver value for money whilst addressing the financial challenges that are facing the public sector, however this is about more than simply efficiencies.
“Our fire stations and appliances are located based on historical risk and demand and we must match our national network of resources to where they are needed most now and in the future.
“We will always maintain fire cover and continue to attend every emergency.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is a vital service which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing it with more than £368m this year, an increase of £14.4m on 2023/23.
“We are also maintaining front-line services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK and we are pleased firefighters have also recently accepted an improved pay offer.”