The typical time Scots wait for fire engines to arrive at an emergency has risen every year since the service was centralised almost a decade ago, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
A Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service by the party found the median time to attend 999 callouts was eight minutes and eight seconds last year, 19% higher than the six minutes 50 seconds in 2013.
The median time has risen year on year since the eight regional brigades were centralised, according to the data, though the fire service no longer sets response-time targets.
MSP Russell Findlay, the Conservatives’ community safety spokesman at Holyrood, said: “Response times are critical and a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death or whether someone’s home is saved or destroyed.”
In 2013 Scotland’s eight regional brigades were merged into one, creating the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and making it the largest in the UK.
As part of the merger it cut the number of control rooms handling 999 calls from eight to three.
According to the data released by the fire service it is the first time the median response time has broken the eight-minute barrier.
The Scottish Tories said that in the service’s 2019-22 draft strategic plan, firefighters said their greatest concern was a lack of money from the Scottish Government as well as station closures and reduced crew numbers.
Mr Findlay, MSP for West Scotland, said: “It’s inevitable that SNP cuts could have serious consequences, not only by potentially putting the public at risk, but demoralising brave firefighters who risk their safety while protecting us.
“The SNP must make the fire service a priority and not an afterthought. Communities need to be confident of there being a sufficient number of firefighters to protect them.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The people of Scotland are well-served by the officers and staff of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), who work alongside partners to make communities safer.
“The allocation of resources and responding to incidents is a matter for SFRS.
“In March, the Scottish Government published a new Fire and Rescue Framework setting how SFRS can do more for the people of Scotland, while adapting to the changing nature of risks facing communities across the country.
“The Scottish Government is continuing its commitment to support SFRS service delivery and modernisation with a further uplift of £9.5 million resource for 2022-23, bringing the total budget to £352.7 million.”
SFRS deputy chief officer Ross Haggart said: “We would always caution against using national response times as a meaningful measure of performance because of our geographic diversity, which includes large inner cities as well as rural and remote communities.
“We attended 85,582 incidents in 2020-21 and it is important to note therefore that we attended half of these in less than eight minutes and eight seconds.
“Also, false alarms make up the largest share of these calls.
“This is why we have recently consulted on changing how we respond to automatic fire alarm actuations in non-domestic premises, to ensure our crews are available to attend genuine emergencies.
“I would like to stress that our operations control staff will always work to mobilise the closest and most appropriate fire appliance to any emergency, and that our crews work tirelessly to protect communities, not only in terms of our emergency response but also through our prevention work to support those most at risk.”
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