Retained firefighters stretched to breaking point

Scottish Liberal Democrats have warned the system of retained firefighters risks being stretched to breaking point as new figures revealed the loss of hundreds of staff during the first year of the new national service.

Official statistics published today showed that between April 2013 and March 2014 the total number of full-time equivalent staff working for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service dropped from 8,125 to 7,690 – a decrease of five per cent compared to one per cent the previous year.

The number of retained firefighters also dropped by 275 from 2,940 to 2,665 (five per cent) during the same period. This follows on from warnings from fire bosses to the Scottish Parliament last March that the system was “on its knees”.

The figures also showed that nine out of ten staff are male.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP commented:

“It is worrying to learn that a further 275 retained firefighters have been lost in a single year. They provide cover to almost 90 per cent of Scotland. Almost every rural and remote community relies upon the willingness of these local people to drop whatever they are doing and attend an incident. Parliament heard last year that the system is ‘on its knees’ and has ‘long-standing’ problems so we need to know whether it has now been stretched to breaking point.

“These statistics also do not reveal whether some communities have been hit harder than others since the centralisation of the fire service. For example, the majority of local control rooms are set to close as services are shifted to the central belt.

Commenting on the gender statistics contained within the report, Ms McInnes added:

“These figures highlight an astonishing lack of diversity across Scotland’s national fire and rescue service. Nine out of ten staff are male. On the frontline this drops to one in twenty. Fire chiefs need to set out how they will address this.”

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