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Fire service concern

THE ACCOUNTS Commission has expressed serious concerns about Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service (HIFRS).

In a best value report published on Thursday the watchdog said the fire and rescue service was unable to demonstrate how it matched its resources with the challenge to cover the largest geographic area of Scotland’s eight fire services.

The Accounts Commission’s report acknowledged that some of the problems identified were already being addressed by the fire board.

But concerns remain as to the backlog in upgrading rural stations as well as the quality and standards of training for fire fighters.

The Accounts Commission also said that plans to create one national fire service by 2013 might distract from the urgency to address these issues.

“However, given the prospect of a national fire and rescue service being established by 2013, doubts remain about the appetite of members to now take these difficult decisions,” the report said.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “This report will only increase fears in Orkney and others parts of the Highlands and Islands that fire station closures are on the cards.  

“Government needs to get good value for the public money it spends, but this cannot be at the expense, in this instance, of smaller island communities who are left to cope with a downgraded service.”