Fife fire cuts: MSP urges Fifers to unite & oppose cuts at stations across Fife

You can’t have more safety with fewer resources - that was the message politicians and fire fighters alike drove home on Wednesday night.
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Alex Rowley, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, organised a public meeting in Dunfermline to discuss the imminent cuts being made to local fire services. They take effect from September 4 and will see second or third fire appliances temporarily removed from Methil, Glenrothes, and Dunfermline stations and a height appliance stationed at Kirkcaldy removed, with cover coming from a newer appliance stationed in Dunfermline.

They moves come as Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) announced a suite of measures to find £11m of savings this year.

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There has already been a huge backlash from firefighters and politicians across the region. Now, Mr Rowley wants the local community to get involved.

Alex Rowley addresses the meeting: Inset: John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) (Pics: Danyel VanReenen)Alex Rowley addresses the meeting: Inset: John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) (Pics: Danyel VanReenen)
Alex Rowley addresses the meeting: Inset: John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) (Pics: Danyel VanReenen)

“We need to fight this Fife wide,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to reverse these budget cuts and protect our core services. These cuts put all of Fife at risk, and the level of risk to the public will continue to rise while demand for services goes up.”

He continued: “It’s realistic that if we don’t stop this level of cuts, the service will be decimated beyond recognition. The more the public is involved in this campaign, the more chance we have of success because that’s when our politicians wake up and do something.”

John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) spoke at the meeting to answer questions about the impact of the budget cuts on Fife’s communities.

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“We’re providing a poorer service now than we were 10 years ago. We cannot have a better fire service with fewer firefighters,” he said.

“The level of risk for everyone will go up. I’m not scaremongering, it’s just a simple fact. We can’t have less resources and make people more safe.”

He continued: “There’s a common theme for fire services. When you cut budgets, you cut firefighters, when you cut firefighters, the response times go up, when response times go up, people are more at risk.”

SFRS have said the removal of appliances is temporary for up to one year, but Mr McKenzie argued that with more cuts on the horizon, there is no money to replace them going forward.

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He said: “The crux of the issue is that the budget cuts are permanent. SFRS is saying the removals are temporary, but there’s no money to pay for them. Firefighters being removed from stations - their transfers are permanent. From our perspective, if there isn’t money to pay for them and there isn’t money to pay for the firefighters needed to staff the appliances, then calling the removals temporary means nothing.”

The meeting was just the start of what Mr Rowley has called a long campaign to save core services in Scotland.

It was attended by about 25-35 people on Wednesday night, and Mr Rowley expects the number to keep growing as the campaign continues.

Mr Rowley and other local MSPs have been pushing for a meeting with Siobhian Brown, Minister for Victims and Community Safety, who previously refused calls for talks, citing operational matters and referring MSPs back to the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

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On Wednesday night, Mr Rowley said the minister has finally agreed to meet with local MSPs sometime in September to discuss the cuts.

“They now seem to be accepting that they can’t hide behind ‘operational matters’,” he said.

He hopes that the Fife community will jump on board with the campaign and put pressure on the minister and SFRS to properly fund the fire service and reverse cuts. “We can’t take this level of budget out of the fire service without it having a detrimental effect,” he said.

SFRS was invited to attend the public meeting on Wednesday night, but declined. An empty chair was symbolically placed at the front of the venue, ironically a former fire station now turned into an arts centre.