LIBDEMS: Scotland has lowest number of firefighters in a decade (updated)

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has urged the SNP/Green Government to act now to tackle the steady decline in firefighters, after new figures revealed that the number of firefighters has dropped to its lowest level in the last decade.

Figures published by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) reveal that the number of FTE whole-time operational staff (full-time firefighters) has dropped from 4,151 in 2012/13 to 3,487 in 2022/23.

The figures also show that the number of FTE retained duty staff (on call firefighters) has dropped from 2,787 in 2012/13 to 2,333 in 2022/23.

Both sets of figures represent the lowest levels of staff in the last decade.

At the beginning of the year, the Fire Brigades Union voted to take strike action for the first time in 20 years in a row over pay.

Mr McArthur, pictured left, said:   “The SFRS is yet another public service being cut to the bone by this SNP/Green Government.  

“The tragic death of Edinburgh-based firefighter, Barry Martin, at the start of the year was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices firefighters make to keep the rest of us out of harm’s way.

“For years, however, harmful government cuts have piled more pressure on the service. With firefighter numbers now at their lowest level in a decade, that pressure will continue to grow with the risk that response times to incidents will also increase.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would invest in our fire service. That means properly resourcing and equipping the service so that it can tackle the challenges it faces day-in, day-out.”

A major fire at Jenners’ store in Edinburgh and firefighter Barry Martin, who died on duty. Top picture shows the Dumbarton Fire Brigade on parade in Levengrove Park on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Ross Haggart, Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, at the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee, said that since 2019 the service has been made aware of 14 fire stations, including Helensburgh, with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) for which “permanent solutions are required”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:  “Ross Haggart is absolutely right when he says that we need permanent solutions. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sounded the alarm about RAAC from as early as July of last year, but ministers have been happy to sit on their hands.

“From our emergency service and healthcare buildings to our schools, colleges and universities, the extent of this dangerous concrete is far-reaching.

“I want to know why the Scottish Government chose not to act in the face of clear warnings. Ministers must urgently publish a full list of public buildings containing RAAC and commit to a national fund that will assist with its removal.”

Responding to Mr Haggart’s comments on the SFRS needing to make £14 million of cuts, which is the equivalent to 339 full-time firefighters, Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “This is yet more damning evidence of the pressures facing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

“Despite regularly going beyond the call of duty to keep us out of harm’s way, the service is being forced to make difficult choices which have the potential to impact on the safety of communities.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats would properly resource and equip the fire service so that it is able to tackle the challenges it faces day-in, day-out.”

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