Campaign to save Edinburgh fire control centre

Edinburgh's fighting it out with three other cities. Picture: Kate Chandler
Edinburgh's fighting it out with three other cities. Picture: Kate Chandler
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THE campaign to save Edinburgh’s fire control centre from closure is being stepped up after a decision due this week was delayed.

Politicians of all party colours have united in calling for the Capital’s 999 control room at Tollcross to be retained.

Council chiefs and MSPs have met fire bosses to put the city’s case. And they said they would take advantage of the new delay to press it further.

The board of the new ­Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has already agreed to cut the number of control rooms from eight to three. A decision on which ones should be kept was due to be made at a board meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday. But a leaked internal email revealed the board has now postponed discussion of the issue until January.

Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi said: “The delay gives an opportunity for further pressure to be brought to bear by all those who ­believe the Capital has to have a fire control centre.

“The Edinburgh control room has an established team with important ­expertise which could be lost if it is moved elsewhere. I will be contacting the board again to reiterate my position that the Edinburgh fire control room should continue.”

He said if Edinburgh was chosen as one of the three ­control centres, it was likely to be expanded as functions were absorbed from elsewhere.

The board has already decided Johnstone in ­Renfrewshire will be one of the three control rooms. The other two will be chosen from Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “The Tollcross fire control centre is well-placed to meet the strategic needs of the national service and the highly trained staff have an excellent working knowledge of the city and wider East of Scotland area.

“This is all the more important in the summer months when the city’s population swells with tourists. Edinburgh’s staff have vital experience in dealing with calls from people for whom English is not a first language, ensuring that emergencies are dealt with quickly. I am concerned that closure would see the loss of these skilled jobs.”

She said while the fire ­service had spoken of re-
deployment, staff who ­travelled from other parts of the Lothians were concerned that moving their families was not a practical option.

Mike Bridgman, convener of the council’s fire and police committee, said the control rooms should cover the east, west and north of Scotland and Edinburgh should be ­retained since Dundee was in the north.

He said: “We’re talking about the capital of Scotland with a major airport and the parliament. It makes sense to keep the control room in ­Edinburgh.”

Fire Brigades Union official Andy Fulton said: “All the options involve a significant number of staff being ­displaced or effectively made redundant. We want to secure as many jobs as possible.”

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said it was 
“disgraceful” that staff faced continued uncertainty over the festive period.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com