MacAskill ‘shirking responsibility’ over future of rural fire services

September 27, 2011

National News

MSP HITS OUT AT JUSTICE SECRETARY OVER HIS FAILURE TO SAFEGUARD RETAINED AND VOLUNTEER STATIONS

MacAskill ‘shirking responsibilty’ over future of rural fire services
 
MSP HITS OUT AT JUSTICE SECRETARY OVER HIS FAILURE TO SAFEGUARD RETAINED AND VOLUNTEER STATIONS
 
BY TIM PAULING
 
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has been accused of “shirking his responsibility” over the future of the fire service in remote and rural areas.
 
The claim followed his failure to give a guarantee that retained and volunteer stations will be safe from closure with the formation of a single fire and rescue service in Scotland.
 
Part-time fire stations form the bulk of those in the north and north-east.
 
Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service has 95 retained stations and 10 community response units – where staff are paid for each turnout – and one full-time.
 
Grampian Fire and Rescue Service has 34 retained stations, five full-time and one volunteer.
 
Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman and North-east MSP Alison McInnes wrote to Mr MacAskill seeking clarification over the part-time units once the eight fire and rescue services are amalgamated.
 
When he replied their future would be an “operation responsibility” for the new service, she accused him of “shirking his responsibility” over future provision.
 
Ms McInnes said:
 
“It is extremely concerning that such a vital service is to be put at risk. Many rural parts of Scotland – including the north-east – rely heavily on retained and volunteer firefighters. The fact Mr MacAskill cannot give any guarantees to their future shows a lack of consideration for local services.

The government claims its proposals will sustain local services, but how can they say this when they have no idea how the introduction of a single fire service would impact on communities?”
 
In his letter, Mr MacAskill said the new fire and rescue services will have operational responsibility for future delivery based on the assessment of risk and within the resources available.
 
“It would not be appropriate for me to comment on how any future board and chief officer choose to deliver these operational responsibilities,” he said.
“I can, however, reiterate this government’s commitment to keeping communities safe by providing more equitable access across Scotland to specialist support, expertise and national capacity when it is needed.”
 
 A Scottish Government spokesperson said the new fire service will have operational responsibility for provision of local servies.

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