Cuts leave Scots town of 50,000 with just one fire engine

Fire and rescue chiefs have been accused of “keeping the public in the dark” after it emerged Livingston has been left with just one appliance during the week due to cutbacks.

By Scott Macnab
Saturday, 16th March 2019, 11:23 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th March 2019, 8:42 am

Teams from other parts of West Lothian have been drafted in to help fight fires in the town of more than 50,000 residents recently. Opposition parties say services are being downgraded and warn the public will be shocked by the move.

The national fire and rescue service insists it must continually review resources for its frontline but says there is always cover available from other stations.

A leaked letter obtained by the Labour party reveals that the East Service Delivery management team met recently to discuss the impact of “dropping appliances” on city stations in Scotland.

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A number of appliances are being made effectively unavailable because staff will not be paid the overtime required. Picture: John Devlin

“Dropping Livingston is one of the options that central staffing are undertaking to consider how they resource the wider area,” it states.

A house fire in Livingston two weeks ago saw appliances from Bathgate and Sighthill called to assist the Livingston appliance as there were no others in this area available, Scotland on Sunday understands. Labour’s Lothians MSP Neil Findlay said: “The public will be shocked to learn of major towns such as Livingston having their fire services downgraded in this way.

“Changes such as this are being done to save money and behind the backs of the communities affected. SNP minister Humza Yousaf must come to Parliament and explain why this downgrade has happened, what analysis has been done to confirm it is safe and why the public were kept in the dark.”

A number of appliances are being made effectively unavailable because staff will not be paid the overtime required. The effect in Livingston has been to cut cover from two appliances to one for most of the week. David McGown, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy chief officer, said: “There is a capacity in our system that allows us to flex our resources, including the strategic movement of appliances and personnel from other stations.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The number of firefighters per head of population is higher in Scotland than other parts of the UK. Decisions about the provision of resources is an operational matter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.”