Some Scottish fire stations ‘no longer fit for purpose’ as one third revealed to be over 50 years old

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has admitted to a "significant backlog” in building maintenance as it revealed that more than one third of the country's fire stations are over 50 years old.

Monday, 17th January 2022, 4:55 am

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) told The Scotsman some were “no longer fit for purpose or meet the expectations and demands” of a 21st century service.

In a Freedom of Information response to the Scottish Conservatives, the SFRS said the average age of its buildings was 41.5 years, with 35 per cent over 50 years old and and 1 per cent dated back more than 70 years.

The figures suggest some 125 of Scotland’s 356 fire stations are more than half a century old and around three are 20 years old still.

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Kirkcaldy Fire Station, which opened in 1938, is one of Scotland's oldest. Picture: George McLuskie

The oldest fire stations include Kirkcaldy, which will be 84 years old in April and was modernised 32 years ago.

The figures come a week after Scotland on Sunday revealed Police Scotland was still using some vehicles from the 1980s and more than 500 of its fleet were more than a decade old.

The Scottish Conservatives claimed the Scottish Government was cutting fire service spending in real terms.

Justice spokesperson Jamie Greene said: “These figures are further proof of the SNP’s long-term underfunding of our emergency services.

“It is essential for public safety that we invest in our fire service to restore ageing buildings and purchase new fire engines - yet some firefighters are being forced to operate out of stations built in the 1950s.

“In last month’s Budget, the SNP showed their disregard by delivering a real-terms cut to the fire service’s capital budget, ignoring Scottish Conservative calls for an extra £8 million investment.

“Between regular duties and the added demands of the pandemic, firefighters across Scotland are under immense pressure.

"The least they deserve is facilities and equipment fit for the 21st century.”

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FBU regional secretary for Scotland Ian Sim said: “The FBU welcomes the increased fire and rescue budget but when you consider the rate of inflation and rising energy costs, this will only be papering over the cracks.

“Some of Scotland’s fire stations are no longer fit for purpose or meet the expectations and demands of a 21st century fire and rescue service.

"Significant funding from the Scottish Government is required to improve the SFRS estate and we urgently need a forward thinking, multi-agency approach to the modernisation and use of our fire stations, as is evident within the refurbished Greenock fire station.”

SFRS chief officer Martin Blunden said: “We received increased funding from the Scottish Government and welcomed the Budget announcement in December as we look to recover from the Covid pandemic.

"It will also help us to meet the increases in cost we expect in 2022-23.

"We do face challenges, such as the rising price of utilities and the continuing significant capital backlog to maintain our buildings.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Effective fire safety remains a priority and we have continued our commitment to SFRS with a further increase of £9.5m in resources for 2022-23 to support modernisation and ensure the service can do more to keep our communities safe.

"This is on top of the £8.7m increase in 2021-22, and will bring the total Scottish Government investment in SFRS to £352.7m for 2022-2023.”

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