Merger may hit fire volunteers – Press and Journal Sept 10th 2011

September 11, 2011

National News

By Tim Pauling – Press and Journal 10th Sept 2011

It is feared that retained and volunteer fire stations in the north and north- east could be closed as part of plans for a nationwide service.

Union leaders say lives will be put at risk in remote and rural communities tat rely on part-time firefighters to keep people and property safe.

Last week the Scottish Government confirmed it will press ahead with legislation to amalgamate Scotland's eight fire brigades into one national service, prompting concerns about standards and services.

Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service has 95 retained stations, 10 community response units (sometimes referred to as volunteer stations0 – where staff are paid for each job – and one full time. Grampian has 34 retained stations, five whole time and one volunteer.

Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman, North-east MSP Alison McInnes, wrote to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill yesterday asking for an assurance that part-time stations will be safe.

She said: "The loss of retained and volunteer stations would be a disaster for rural fire and rescue. The government must guarantee that will not happen."

Her concerns were echoed by Paul Taylor, Scottish assistant national officer of the Retained Firefighters Union.

He said retained stations could become easy targets in the race to save money with a single service, which the union objects to.

"I would like to think they will look closely at other options before closing fire stations to save money," he said

The Scottish Government insisted services will be protected in a single force. A spokeswoman said: "Our plans for a Scottish fire and rescue service will safeguard local services in the face of the budget cuts from Westminster. The new Scottish Fire Service will have operational responsibility for the provision of local services."

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