THE public may be put at risk by plans to raise the retirement age for firefighters by five years, an academic has warned.

Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University, who specialises in health and safety issues, said raising the pensionable age from 55 to 60 would present "serious potential threats to those they may need to rescue and their own health and welfare.

On Thursday, more than 300 Fire Brigades Union protesters took part in a demonstration at Holyrood, warning that many officers will face tough fitness tests raising the possibility of them being forced out of their jobs.

Prof Watterson added: "There are major questions of fairness raised by shifting people who joined up on one scheme to a worse scheme and to increasing their chances of 'capability dismissal'."

He suggested the changes looked highly inequitable on gender grounds too.

He said: "The Scottish Government has rightly flagged its commitment to social justice and to protecting emergency workers.

"One would hope that it will now clearly signal it does not support the Westminster attack on older firefighters and their pensions and take a different and fairer route."

He said: "A retirement age of 60 might be viewed as generous but it simply fails to consider properly what exactly the demands of a particular job are. Firefighters face increasing physical demands as they age."