The decision to close the Inverness fire control room has been condemned by Highlands and Islands MSPs who say it will harm the cover provided by the Scottish fire service.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said that it was “disappointing to hear of yet more raids on rural services” and that the closure of the fire control room in Inverness would be “a tremendous loss to the region.”
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service yesterday confirmed it will axe Inverness and Aberdeen control rooms in line with recommendations from chief fire officer Alistair Hay. The closure means only three of eight control rooms are left in Scotland.
A spokesman for the SFRS said the decision had been taken by a vote of nine to three “following a robust discussion to examine the proposals.” The board agreed that Edinburgh and Dundee will join Johnstone Control as the three control rooms for Scotland.
Mr Scott added the move would see powers withdrawn from rural communities towards the central belt and that the SNP government’s “steady erosion of local services, local responsibilities and local knowledge will be immensely damaging”.
He added: “In remote locations such as the Highlands and Islands, the invaluable wealth of experience and local knowledge of the fire and rescue service as well as the police has enabled them to provide an excellent standard of service which I believe will be exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to emulate from the central belt.”
Orkney MSP Liam MacArthur said: “What we are seeing here is a process of centralisation which has been on-going for some time now. I think the loss of the fire control room in Inverness is deeply regrettable. The loss of local expertise will not stand the fire service in good stead.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said the decision fitted with the SNP’s centralisation agenda which was going to be damaging to north and north east communities.
“It is a disappointing message that is being sent out to the Highlands and Islands.”
Her colleague David Stewart said “Having met with the staff involved, I am extremely disappointed by this decision. It is a real blow to the staff, their families and the wider community that emergency service jobs are being cut in this way.”
Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell earlier wrote to the board warning that the Inverness control room had “a huge wealth of experience and knowledge, built up over a number of years,” which would be impossible to replace.
According to Mr Bell, as well as the practical advantages of Inverness, “any proposed savings would be minimal should its closure” go ahead.
He adds it is “best value” to keep Inverness as prior to the formation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, it had been upgraded by Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service.
He states: “Retaining the control room in Inverness, in what is considered to be a vast remote and geographical location, would strengthen and support Scotland’s resilience network.”