Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today welcomed a £1.2 million package for Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to invest in services across the Northern Isles.
The announcement follows pressure from Mr McArthur, who called on Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing MSP in an exchange in Holyrood last month to address concerns about the recruitment and retention of crews in local stations in Orkney.
Orkney’s MSP also raised these concerns directly with SFRS in meetings in June and again in September.
SFRS have detailed that the funding will see a new hot fire training (or carbonaceous) unit built at Kirkwall airport, with a separate unit built to assist firefighters in avoiding becoming entangled in wires while negotiating enclosed spaces in challenging conditions. The new site, according to SFRS, will also benefit from support facilities, including teaching rooms, a canteen, offices and changing facilities.
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
"One of the main obstacles to recruiting and retaining crew in retained fire stations in Orkney has been the travel and time involved in undertaking training. For many living in the smaller islands, this has simply not been compatible with other work and family commitments.
"During my recent meetings with SFRS management and the Fire Services Minister, Annabelle Ewing, I therefore made it clear that urgent investment in facilities at Kirkwall airport was essential.
"The announcement from SFRS that this investment will now take place is therefore welcome and a positive response to the calls I have been making. Hopefully these new facilities will allow more of the required training to take place closer to home, enabling more island residents to consider taking on these roles.
"Retained fire stations are vital for keeping our communities safe. To ensure they can continue to operate effectively, they need support tailored to island circumstances. This is the case I will continue to make to SFRS and government, building on this welcome step in the right direction".