By Bill Heaney

New statistics showing a huge rise incidents where fire and rescue appliances were unavailable last year reinforce the urgent need for an emergency rescue plan, Scottish Labour has said today.

Data released via a freedom of information request by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) shows whole-time fire appliances were “off the run” 6,272 times in 2022, a 138% increase since 2019. The figures for the first half of 2023, are already worse than the whole of 2019.

Meanwhile, Retained Duty System (RDS) appliances, available to on call firefighters providing cover, were off the run 112,615 times, a rise of 23% since 2018.

The figures come after Scottish Labour warned in a letter to the Scottish Government that firefighters were increasingly “fearful about the future sustainability of the entire service”. As part of a £11 million package of cuts, second or third appliances are being withdrawn from ten stations this month.

Meanwhile, High Reach Appliances are to be reduced from 26 to 16, and the dedicated water rescue response on the River Clyde has been replaced by a multi-agency “dual crew” model.

Katy Clark, right, Scottish Labour Spokesperson for Community Safety, commented: “These dramatic statistics are just the latest example of the deep impact that a decade of cuts has had on Scotland’s fire and rescue service.

“Response times have worsened, stations are in disrepair and hundreds of jobs have been lost. Now, we are seeing vital appliances withdrawn across the country, even though the data suggests appliances are already being frequently unavailable whether it be due to mechanical defects or staffing issues. This is not sustainable.

“Staggeringly, the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government does not even mention the massive challenges firefighters are facing, even in light of hundreds of them making their voices heard at a mass rally earlier this month.

“These cuts are having serious consequences and are making firefighters, who put their lives on the line, and the wider public less safe. This latest bombshell must be a wake-up call. Ministers must not ignore warnings and finally come forward with an emergency plan to save this lifeline service.”

  • “Off the run” is an operational term to indicate the unavailability of a particular asset. The definition is usually based on a mechanical defect or staffing issue, and can range from a few minutes to allow technical repair all the way up to a vehicle requiring a full complement of personnel to deploy.

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