THURSDAY’S decision to close the Inverness and Aberdeen fire control rooms has been branded another raid on rural services.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) board decided by nine votes to three that Edinburgh and Dundee will join Johnstone as the three fire control centres in Scotland.
The implementation of these plans is expected to take three to five years.
The decision follows the merger of Scotland’s eight regional fire services in April last year.
Inverness is also to lose its police control room but, as a consolation, will to become the new hub for the command and control of major incident and national events, the police board decided on Thursday afternoon. The Aberdeen police control rooms ( Queen Street and Bucksburn) are to close.
The move to close Inverness fire control is seen as further proof of the steady erosion of local services to the urban centres and has been opposed by both local authorities and national politicians.
Chairman of the Shetland community safety board, councillor Alastair Cooper, said the SFRS had not listened to local concerns.
“I am concerned that we could potentially end up with a fatality due to the loss of local knowledge. Fire control in Inverness has acquired a lot of the local knowledge, and we now have to start the learning process all over again.
“When you are looking at the report before board members today, it does not deal in any fashion with the concerns of the local community.
“Even if they had addressed those concerns and then had come with all the reason to discounting it, you would have felt that they had at least listened to you.
“But when you don’t see the local concerns being addressed at all in the report, you are left with significant doubt in your mind,” Cooper said.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said: “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.
“The steady erosion of local services, local responsibilities and local knowledge will be immensely damaging and I fear that the SNP will not rest until every part of the Scottish state is controlled by central government from an office block in Edinburgh.”
Having campaigned for the retention of the Inverness fire control room, highlands and islands Labour MSPs David Stewart and Rhoda Grant said they were disappointed by the board’s decision.
Grant said: “This decision seems to fit with the SNP’s centralisation agenda, which is only ever going to be damaging to north and north east communities.”
Stewart added: “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.”
SRFS gave a commitment that there would be no compulsory redundancies.
Chief fire officer Alasdair Hay said: “I’m absolutely convinced that by moving from the model of eight to three controls means we will have an effective and efficient control room infrastructure.
“What it will do is it will improve the capacity and resilience of our control rooms and with that improvement it will ensure not only the safety of the communities in Scotland but also the safety of our firefighters and that is always at the heart of all the decisions we make.
“I understand how disappointed staff in those controls that will not form part of the three control room model will be.
“They perform a fantastic role in keeping communities safe we intend to continue to support them and work with them. It should be noted that there are no compulsory redundancies and we will be engaging directly with staff.”