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No emergency control room for Shetland

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott.

SCOTTISH justice secretary Michael Matheson has declined to look into the merits of setting up a joint emergency control room in Shetland to serve the isles.

The minister was pressed on the issue in the Scottish Parliament by local MSP Tavish Scott earlier this week, who cited a number of mistakes in call outs that had occurred over recent months.

But Matheson said that it wasn’t the geographical location of the emergency services control room that mattered, but the quality of training and the tools and equipment available to staff.

The Scottish government recently centralised the fire control room servicing Shetland from Inverness to Dundee.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Scott recalled recent instances where a fire crew from Bressay was called out to attend an emergency on the island of Yell.

He was supported by Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Edward Mountain, who recalled a similar incident when the Raasay fire crew was called out to a road traffic accident on Skye after the ferry had stopped operating.

The minister said: “The geographical location of the contact centre is not the key issue. It is the knowledge of the staff and the tools and equipment that they have in that particular facility that are important in making sure that resources are deployed to the appropriate area.

“I assure the member that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland do a significant amount of work to reassure us about the way in which their contact command and control centres are operating. That work will continue.

“Part of that is also about recognising notable incidents of things going wrong and making sure that they are properly identified and that the services learn from them so that they minimise the risk of them happening again.

“That work will continue to be taken forward by Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Scott said he remained unconvinced: “A control room based in the islands could reduce this pressure. It would bring all Shetland’s blue light emergency services under one roof in responding to any incident on land or at sea. That would be a new and better approach for the islands.

“Many experts in Shetland have looked at this and believe it would be sensible for the government to examine the proposal.

“Government must be interested in what works, what can most effectively improve response times and how local knowledge of geography can be used. I will continue to press the government to keep an open mind on this.”