Alarm sounds over fate of fire stations

The fire service is expected to begin consultation in the New Year
The fire service is expected to begin consultation in the New Year

Fears 999 hubs could close as SFRS moves to make service more efficient

Documents leaked last week revealed SFRS bosses are considering a change to service provision as it is felt that the current staffing model can’t last into the next financial year. There are now fears stations could close and firefighter numbers could be cut.

Although it was suggested this would be in mainly urban areas, there are also implications for rural areas such as Aberdeenshire which has stations in Peterhead, Maud, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Oldmeldrum, Kintore, Inverurie, Insch, Alford, Banchory, Stonehaven, Aboyne, Braemar and Strathdon. Terry Whyte, Fire Brigades Union Scotland secretary for Aberdeenshire, said that staff know very little about what the proposals will eventually include.

He added: “We’ve known of the documents for quite some time. They are undertaking what I would call a ‘scoping’ exercise.

“It’s a difficult one for us to react to until we know what is likely to be affected.

“We don’t know what these documents mean for Aberdeenshire at all yet.”

Politicians are also concerned about the implications. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said: “Our local communities deserve clarity on the future of the fire service and what impact a fresh round of cuts may have. “I would be very concerned if there were any further reduction in the number of fire stations.” He added: “It is difficult to see how response times can be maintained if stations are to close.

“People who live outwith the main urban areas in Scotland rely heavily upon local fire crews, the majority of which are made up of volunteers. I will be seeking reassurance from the SFRS that there will be a detailed and meaningful consultation on any proposals that come forward.”

The SFRS is expected to begin public and staff consultation in the New Year.

A spokeswoman said: “This is not about cuts, it is about the transformation of a delivery model that has served us well but was designed for the risks of over 70 years ago.

“We need to ask ourselves how we can now deploy the combined resources of the world’s fourth largest fire and rescue service in a more efficient and effective way.”