Commons to debate firefighters’ hours

The House of Commons will debate the implications of the EU working time directive for retained firefighters tomorrow.

The hour-and-a-half long debate was secured by Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who has expressed his concerns that the scrapping of Britain’s opt out as agreed by the European Parliament will threaten communities in Shetland and Orkney due to the directive’s unintended implications for retained fire-fighters.

Shetland stations using retained firefighters are Baltasound, Bixter, Bressay, Brae, Fair Isle, Fetlar, Foula, Lerwick, Mid Yell, Sandwick, Scalloway, Skerries, Sumburgh, Walls and Whalsay, along with 13 in Orkney.

Labour MSPs, meanwhile, said they had been given assurances by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy that there was “no immediate” threat to services because the Council of Ministers, which shares decision-making with the European Parliament on the issue, reamined opposed to the ending of the opt out.

Mr Carmichael said: “The importance of retained fire fighters cannot be over stated. It affects not just conventional fire cover but also the operation of inter-island flights.

“It is important therefore that we get the message across to the government as soon as possible that this is potentially very important to us and that we have to get it right.

“The debate is not about whether or not we should end the UK opt-out from the working time directive. It is about doing the planning now to ensure that if that does happen, then the directive will be implemented in such a way as to ensure that retained fire fighters can continue to provide vital cover to our communities.”


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