Edinburgh fire control centre reprieve now likely

The emergency fire response centre is set to remain in the Capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The emergency fire response centre is set to remain in the Capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The nerve centre for emergency fire response in the Capital looks likely to be saved after a review recommended it should be retained in a shake -up of control rooms.

The new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is cutting its control rooms from eight to three in a sweeping rationalisation programme.

And the base at Tollcross fire station was fighting for survival against centres in Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

The final decision will be made by the SFRS board on Thursday next week, but officials are now recommending Edinburgh and Dundee should be kept. The future of the ­control room at Johnstone, Renfrewshire, had already been guaranteed.

Campaigners argued Tollcross should be saved because it was the second-largest and second-busiest control room in Scotland, its IT systems were up to date and closing it would not bring any financial benefit since it is part of an operational fire station.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said she was delighted the force of the arguments had been recognised.

She said: “It’s vital that staff expertise is retained to maintain safety and that the fire service can meet the challenges of Edinburgh being such an important festival and tourist destination.”

Mike Bridgman, convener of the city council’s police and fire committee, said it would have been a big mistake to close the Edinburgh control room.

He said: “I’m overjoyed Edinburgh has been selected to be one of the three.

“That is the recommendation to the board and in all common sense they should accept it. It proves our campaign was listened to.” Officials had originally recommended keeping just two control rooms – Johnstone and Dundee, with Edinburgh being closed – but the board rejected the plan and said three should be retained.

The review concluded a combination of Edinburgh and Dundee offered “the most suitable solution”. Chief fire officer Alasdair Hay said: “We have a great opportunity as a result of fire reform in ­Scotland to create three fire controls with a much better service whilst at the same time making ­efficiency savings.”

But while welcoming the recommendation on Tollcross, Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone criticised the way the shake-up had been ­handled.

She said: “Having met with affected staff at the ­Edinburgh control-room, I naturally ­welcome what looks like a reprieve for them.

“But I remain saddened by the prospect of other ­centres such as Inverness and ­Aberdeen facing closure, and the loss of local knowledge and expertise.

“These plans were bungled by the single fire service board. They were not discussed in advance with the highly skilled workers affected and management will clearly have some work to do to repair staff ­relations.”

Police are cutting back too

Police Scotland has published plans to slash its control rooms from ten to five, resulting in around 200 job losses.

The former Lothian and Borders centre at Bilston Glen, Midlothian, will stay open, along with those in Govan, Motherwell, Inverness and Dundee. But the two-year plan, due to be approved by the Scottish Police Authority at its meeting on Thursday next week, would see the axe fall on the control rooms in Aberdeen, Stirling, Dumfries, Glenrothes and Pitt Street in Glasgow.