Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called on Scottish Government Ministers to take action to address concerns about recruitment and retention of crews in local stations in Orkney.
In a week that saw Mr McArthur meet again with SFRS Area Manager for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, Billy Wilson and his successor in this role, Frazer Burr, Orkney’s MSP repeated his call for Ministers to support investment in training facilities in Orkney.
In response to a parliamentary question in Holyrood yesterday, Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing MSP, however, stated “the recruitment and retention of retained firefighters within Scotland’s Fire Service is an operational matter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.”
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
“Retained fire stations are vital to keeping our island communities safe, but many are struggling to attract and retain crew. A large part of the problem appears to be the time commitment required for initial and ongoing training, much of which still takes place outwith Orkney.
"My discussions with SFRS were useful and there does appear to be an acceptance that a one-size-fits-all approach to training and other requirements is not working for our island communities. This though needs to be translated into changes on the ground.
"Something that would undoubtedly help would be improved training facilities at Kirkwall airport, bringing them into line with what is already available in Sumburgh and Stornaway. This investment can only be made, however, if SFRS have the capital funding from the Scottish Government.
"It is disappointing, therefore, that the Minister, Annabelle Ewing has denied that this is anything to do with her. I recognise that recruitment and retention of retained firefighters within Scotland’s fire service is an operational matter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, but the Minister cannot simply wash her hands of all responsibility. If she believes that retaining these stations in rural and island areas is important, she must ensure that SFRS have the resources to deliver the changes needed.”