New Lothian and Borders Chief Jimmy Campbell has said that amalgamation of Scottish services will be impossible to avoid in the current economic climate. In a statement made following the recent vetoing of a plan for Lothian and Borders and Fife to share a chief fire officer, CFO Campbell said that Scotland's eight services could be merged into three regions: west, south east and north.
While acknowledging that while no one knows the true extent of imminent spending cuts, he posited that they would be significant and that they would significantly affect the way that fire and rescue services do business.
He said: "I am seeking a national approach from chief fire officers to establish a realistic direction and course of action that fundamentally protects our frontline firefighters and maintains the quality standard of services that the people of Scotland have come to expect.
"At present we do things eight times over: eight chief fire officers, eight sets of senior management, eight sets of back office support across a range of jobs, personnel, pays, IT to name but a few.
"If we look at the number of fire and rescue services in Scotland there must be a better way of doing things. In Wales they have already reduced the number of services they have without apparent detriment to the core services they are required to provide by law.
"I believe that it's inevitable that at the end of this four year period of budget cuts we will not have eight fire and rescue services across Scotland, they will have been merged perhaps to three, covering the west of Scotland, south east and the north.
"At present our services match the set up at local authority level and that is also reflected by the number of police forces and health boards in Scotland. Perhaps at government level there is a need to look at a total reorganisation to find a more effective way for agencies to work together and in particular how back office services are supplied.
"In Lothian and Borders 84 per cent of our gross expenditure is in staff costs, this will be replicated in other fire services. If we are to deliver savings of some 20-25 per cent as some suggest, sharing back room services alone will not give us the required savings.
"We need to be in a position to fulfill our duties under the Fire Scotland Act which includes a firefighting capability, response to road traffic collisions and a fire prevention role. For fire crews to carry out this work they need back office support, people to pay them, ensure they have IT support, and take the calls for emergency assistance to name but a few."