Jenners fire: Firefighter Barry Martin's death is a reminder to all to value our heroic frontline workers – Ian Murray
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In recent days, the city has come together to show respect to fallen firefighters and to all those on the thin red line who protect our lives and property. With tributes pouring in from across the country, and cascades of flowers outside the Jenners building, I hope it gives some comfort to Barry’s family and friends to know how much his loss has been felt. My thoughts are with them.
For most of us, going to work does not involve risking your life. But for firefighters, police officers, ambulance workers, and many other frontline professions, that is their daily reality.
I support the calls being made for Barry to receive a posthumous George Cross, or any other appropriate form of recognition following consultation in due course with his family and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Heroes deserve to be recognised. I know that the family’s focus in the days ahead will be on grieving and remembering.
I also commend those who have found ways of commemorating Barry, such as Hanover Healthfoods which has announced it is making a donation to the Fire Fighters Charity. The charity exists to help all serving and retired members across the UK to live healthier and happier, and donations can be made at www.firefighterscharity.org.uk.
The Jenners fire also saw two other firefighters taken to hospital, two treated for burns, and a police officer received treatment. This is an example of the risk that our blue-light heroes face in the course of public service.
I fear that too often the roles of local services and frontline workers are taken for granted. Given the challenges of dealing with incidents like fire outbreaks, it makes it even more appalling when you hear about some of the attacks committed by members of the public.
Every Bonfire Night, assaults on firefighters are reported – sickening behaviour that those responsible should be utterly ashamed of. Earlier in January, police officers were sexually assaulted, punched, kicked and verbally abused at various incidents in Lanarkshire, leaving three in hospital.
The Scottish Police Federation is rightly highlighting the incredible bravery of officers across the country, and the unacceptable abuse they too often face. Even the nurses who spend their long working hours trying to heal the sick have been subjected to disgraceful attacks.
Frontline staff are serving the public, and abuse, assault or unnecessary risk should never be part of the job. This week, thousands of workers in Scotland joined in a UK-wide day of strikes, and firefighters are set to take industrial action in the weeks ahead.
All households are facing the cost-of-living crisis, and council services are being stripped to the bone. In the tough times ahead, we will need a resilient public service workforce that gets the recognition it deserves.
I know that emergency workers are worried about their futures. And those here in the Capital are also grieving their loss. Nobody should go to work and not return home.
Words alone are never enough, but thank you to all our hero frontline workers – we owe you so much.
Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South