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Firefighters' union urges Scottish government to reverse cuts to crew numbers, pay and pensions

SCOTTISH politicians giving firefighters a “pat on the back” should reverse cuts to crew numbers, pay and pensions, the Fire Brigades Union said today.

In a Holyrood debate last night, MSPs lined up to condemn violence against emergency service workers.

Tory Liam Kerr, who raised the issue, said there were 6,000 attacks on emergency workers in Scotland last year, a slight increase on the previous year, but only 47 per cent of reports over this period led to a conviction, down from 56 per cent.

Mr Kerr said: “Emergency workers are there when we most need help, when we find ourselves in danger, when time is critical and when accidents happen and they are there when nobody else answers.

“It is not enough simply to thank them. We must protect them.”

SNP Community Safety Minister Ash Denham pointed out that laws introduced in 2005 to protect emergency workers had been opposed by the Conservatives.

“That legislation has led to many convictions that would not have occurred had the Conservatives had their way on the issue,” she told the chamber.

“I am very glad that they have now seen the light on it.”

FBU Scotland secretary Denise Christie said: “It’s disgraceful that anyone would attack firefighters. These are professionals who are committed to keeping the communities of Scotland safe under very difficult circumstances.

“Firefighters are being asked to do more for much less as fire services are under-resourced and overstretched.

"We welcome the recent recruitment of firefighters, but this must also reflect the retirement profile, otherwise we will continue to see a reduction in the front line.

“It’s all good and well to give firefighters a pat on the back at debates within the Scottish Parliament. But that doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table to feed their families.”

She said firefighters’ hourly pay is now 10.6 per cent below the British average and they have suffered a real-terms pay cut of £6,705 since 2008.

Speaking in the debate, Labour MSP Elaine Smith noted that the FBU had challenged proposals to reduce crewing.

“Concerns about low morale, increased stress and higher sickness levels were also identified in the Scottish government’s evaluation of police and fire reform,” she said, calling on Ms Denham to “give an indication of how the concerns that were raised earlier in the year are being addressed.”

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