The Scottish Fire and Rescue (SFRS) service must commit to year-on-year improvements to response, training, prevention, equipment and the creation of national standards, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said, as MSPs debate fire service reform. After decades of gradual improvements, Scotland has seen fires, fire deaths, non-fire incidents, and false alarms all plateau in recent years, while the total number of incidents firefighters responded to increased again this year.
The FBU is asking MSPs to ensure that the SFRS has long term sustainable funding invested to support a programme of annual improvements to ensure there are fewer fires, fewer fire deaths and injuries, fewer firefighter deaths and injuries, and faster response times.
Denise Christie, FBU Scotland secretary, said:
“We’ve been told time and time again that the fire and rescue service in Scotland is making people safer, but a lack of sustainable funding is bringing that into doubt. After years of improvements, fire safety indicators have plateaued – and it’s simply naive to say massive cuts to firefighter numbers over the last decade have nothing to do with it.
“It’s vital that MSPs agree a serious long-term funding plan that can support firefighters in their life-saving work. Standards are slipping – we can’t allow these dangerous trends to continue. The service is letting the public and firefighters down.”
The FBU supported the creation of a single fire and rescue service for Scotland in 2013 on the basis of the assurances given by the Scottish government and the Scottish parliament that it offered the opportunity for protecting and increasing frontline firefighter jobs and capability. Previously, there were 8 regional fire and rescue services in Scotland.
Firefighters responded to nearly 500 more incidents last year than the year before, a total of 91,695. In Scotland, there have consistently been more serious fires per-head than in England or Wales every year since 2010. Firefighter numbers have been cut by nearly 700 in the same period.
Firefighters in Scotland rescued over 3,500 people last year, 3,000 were rescued from non-fire incidents, while nearly 500 were rescued from fires.