A WAR of words has broken out between fire chiefs and the firefighters’ trade union as hundreds of officers prepare to march on Holyrood in protest at sweeping reforms that could see stations closed and jobs lost due to budget cuts.

Documents being circulated to senior Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) management have said the current service could not last beyond the end of the financial year.

It has been suggested that some city-based staff could switch to an on-call rota similar to that used in rural areas, while the number of full-time posts will be reduced.

But hundreds of firefighters have already been axed since the service was merged from eight into one Scotland-wide force in 2013. Now the Fire Brigades Union Scotland has warned that dozens of fire engines were already unusable because there were not enough crews to take them out and further cuts could harm public safety.

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Hundreds of firefighters are expected at the Scottish Parliament today to demonstrate at the latest plans and union leaders are calling on ministers to ensure the service is properly funded. Denise Christie, regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Scotland, said: “Each day across Scotland, dozens of fire engines cannot respond to emergencies because there are simply not enough firefighters to crew them.

“It is a disgrace that more cuts are even being considered.

“We have lost over 700 frontline firefighters in Scotland since 2013 and response times to emergencies have been lengthening in recent years as a result. This is unsustainable and firefighters are demanding an end to the cuts and are asking for a commitment from the Scottish Government for future investment.

“This is not the level of service that we expect or deserve and the politicians know this. It’s why there is a broad political consensus that these cuts are bad for public safety.”

More than 1,000 jobs in total have been lost at Scotland’s fire service over the last four three years, sparking safety fears for staff and the public.

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The FBU’s comments led to an angry response from Iain Bushell, deputy chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who said: “We are disappointed that the FBU continues to repeat wholly inaccurate information that may cause unnecessary public concern.

“Our vision and plans have been openly published for some time now on our public website and we are already conducting a conversation with our staff.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is leading by example within the public sector in Scotland in setting out an inspiring vision for the future.

“We have a simple choice – we transform and enable our firefighters to do so much more for our communities or stay the same and leave them exposed to new risks.”

He said in return for the changes, firefighters would receive a “significantly improved recognition package”. He accused the union of being able to secure a deal for its members anywhere across the UK and to return to the negotiating table.

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A Scottish Government spokesman pointed out the fire service’s overall operational budget had risen by £21.7m this year and that since the single service was began in 2013, there had been no compulsory redundancies or station closures.

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