Firefighters protesting budget cuts say morale has reached 'rock bottom'

A range of measures were announced by SFRS earlier this year to make around £11m in savings.

Firefighters protesting budget cuts say morale has reached ‘rock bottom’ LDRS

Firefighters across Scotland travelled to Glasgow on Thursday afternoon to express frustration with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  

They were joining an estimated 1,100 Fires Bridge Union members from across the country to demand proper funding for fire services and to demand an end to budget cuts. 

Earlier this year, the centralised SFRS announced a raft of measures to find £11m of savings this year. 

The savings package will see second or third fire appliances temporarily removed from stations including Methil, Glenrothes, and Dunfermline and a height appliance stationed at Kirkcaldy will also be withdrawn. 

The changes will come into force on September 4  and more budget cuts are on the horizon in coming years. 

Gregg Campbell, branch secretary at Kirkcaldy Fire Station, was one of the local firefighters in Glasgow on Thursday. 

He described the atmosphere as positive and inspiring. 

“The rally went really well. There was a good turnout from across the UK. Firefighters from as far as Yorkshire and Manchester were in Glasgow today,” he said. 

The FBU organised the rally in Glasgow to combat the service cuts and force the centralised SFRS to reconsider its direction of travel. 

“What a turnout in Glasgow at the Cuts Leave Scars rally,” the FBU said on Facebook. 

“Firefighters from Scotland and beyond are sending a clear message to the Scottish Government – you can’t protect the public on the cheap. Stop the cuts, fund Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.” 

Mr Campbell said the rally was a much-needed inspiration for firefighters to keep fighting for their service. 

“It has made us feel more up for the fight,” he said. 

“Firefighters are always up for a fight, but I think the rally inspired a lot of us to dig in and keep fighting this.” 

Since the savings package was announced, Mr Campbell said morale amongst firefighters has been at an all time low. 

“As of September 4, the Methil and Glenrothes fire forces will essentially be halved,” he explained. 

“It’s a real kick to be losing the height appliance in Kirkcaldy too. It’s been here since 1943 and it’s a big risk to not have it nearby.” 

The union claims that Fife will also be losing more than 50 firefighters from across the Kingdom as a result of the cuts.

A campaign flyer claims Dunfermline will lose 15; Glenrothes and Methil will each lose 20; and Kirkcaldy will lose 10 firefighters after September 4. 

“It does get tiring. It’s overwhelming and morale is pretty much at rock bottom,” Mr Campbell said.  

“We’re hoping the budget gets increased and that the cuts stop. I’d like to think the height appliance will come back to Kirkcaldy, but I’m just not sure.” 

Going forward, Mr Campbell said the community needs to keep pressure on councillors and local MPs and MSPs to make the Scottish Government reconsider the cuts.

A Scottish Government spokesperson has 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 2022/23.

“We are also maintaining front-line services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK and firefighters recently accepted an improved pay offer.”

Stuart Stevens, SFRS deputy chief officer, said: “Any permanent changes now or in the future will only be made following full engagement and consultation with all our stakeholders, including the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

“Like all public services, we are operating in a challenging financial period and require to save at least £36m across the next four years.

“In addressing our financial challenges, we also must modernise as a service to ensure we are best placed to meet the changing risk and demand we face across Scotland.

“We will continue to work in partnership with the FBU and other representative bodies around any impact of potential savings that the Service may have to consider.”

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