SCOTLAND’S fire service has said it faces “a major test” because of a cash squeeze.

In its annual report for 2016/17, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) acknowledged it was “not immune” to cuts and their “duration and severity” remained unclear.

In a section titled “key challenges”, the first item listed was “financial austerity”.

It said: “While the Scottish Government has pledged to protect some services we acknowledge that we are not immune to spending restrictions.

“There is no doubt that financial pressure will be a major test of our resilience going forward.

“The duration and severity of future financial reductions are not yet fully clear but what we do know is that to protect and improve service delivery outcomes we will need to transform how we operate.”

The SRFS said it has drawn up a long-term financial strategy to cope with the budget squeeze and “target resources where they are most needed”.

The Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2018/19 says the SRFS budget will rise by a fraction in real terms next year, from £316.4m to £316.9m in 2017/18 prices.

In his introduction to the report, SFRS Chair Pat Watters also highlighted money issues.

He said: “Over the past four years, we have delivered more than £53m of efficiencies – some 18 per cent of the combined budgets of the eight legacy services.

“We have made some very difficult decisions to ensure we met this challenge without compromising frontline outcomes.

“We are looking to the future and considering how we can adapt and change to meet the evolving risks facing communities across Scotland.

“While we will continue to make the case for the right resourcing to meet those risks, there is no guarantee of extra money.”

The Scottish Government said the SFRS was current advertising for more firefighters.

A spokesperson: “This year we increased the overall SFRS operational budget by £21.7m, supporting investment in vital equipment and resources.

“Operational decisions on the allocation of resources are a matter for the SFRS board and chief officer. Since reform of the fire service, there have been no compulsory redundancies and no station closures.

"One hundred new fire fighters were recruited in January 2017 and a recruitment campaign is currently underway for a further 300.

“The SFRS is currently exploring how it can develop to meet new and emerging risks, including how transformation could see SFRS do more for the people of Scotland. The process will involve liaison with staff, partners and the public.”