Comment: Experienced staff would likely be lost

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The merger of Scotland’s emergency services has so far proved troublesome for the Capital. As we approach the first anniversary of Police Scotland, there are deep concerns about how the policing of the city and how it has grown apart from the priorities of the people who live here.

The fear now is that the fire service may also become distant from Edinburgh and lose much of the local expertise that has served it well for so many years.

Of course the whole rationale for creating single fire and police services was to make them more efficient and so provide better value for money for taxpayers. So we should not be surprised to see the merger of backroom and support services as part of that process.

However, the closure of a control room should only be considered if it will improve the efficiency of the service. And it cannot be allowed to go ahead unless it can be guaranteed that the service provided to the public will not be damaged by the move.

It is clear on both counts that the closure of the Edinburgh control room would fail to pass the test on both counts.

It includes many experienced call handlers who know the area well who would likely be lost to the service if the centre was closed and their jobs transferred to Renfrewshire or Dundee. It would be nigh on impossible to rebuild that expertise in a centre so far from the Capital. The centre at Tollcross is also a modern facility based in a working fire station so there are no clear savings to be made from its closure.

Sarah Boyack MSP and Councillor Mike Bridgeman are right to point out that Tollcross is ideally placed to direct calls from across the Lothians, the Borders and Fife.

The merger of our emergency services can work but only if it is delivered properly. That means creating a structure which is capable of delivering a local service in each part of Scotland that meets local needs. The best way of doing that for the fire service is to keep its Tollcross control room.