Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, reports on the work underway to establish a new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
In September 2011, after sustained discussion, dialogue and debate over the past couple of years, the Scottish Government published proposals for a single Fire and Rescue Service in Scotland. This was a major milestone which marked the start of the biggest changes to the service in a generation.
Our legislation - which also proposes a single police service - is now being considered by the Scottish Parliament. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the Bill could be passed by the end of June.
A whole range of work is already underway to pave the way for the establishment of the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to replace the current eight services.
We've been working closely with the services, the trades unions and other key stakeholders towards a go live date of April 1, 2013. I realise that does not sound far away, but senior management in the services are confident the new single service will be ready for action by then. There will still, of course, be lots of work to do in the months and years afterwards to ensure it is a truly integrated single service with all the benefits that brings, but we can reassure the people of Scotland that they can continue to rely on the service in the future.
We have confirmed the interim headquarters for the new service will be in the beautiful and historic city of Perth. Although a longer-term decision on HQ location will be taken in due course, Perth will be an excellent first home for the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service - it's conveniently located in the heart of Scotland with excellent transport links.
And the recruitment process for the new Chief Officer will start in the Summer - even before the conclusion of the Parliamentary process - so we hope to be able to make an announcement on this in Autumn of this year.
It will undoubtedly be one of the most demanding and high-profile roles in civic Scotland and we expect a high level of interest. It is an exciting post which will be one of the top fire jobs in the UK and we are looking for the best candidate with the skills, expertise and knowledge to lead the new single service, regardless of where they currently work.
Heading up the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, leading a workforce of more than 8,000 firefighters and support staff, with accountability for a multi-million pound budget and responsibility for ensuring the safety of more than five million people. That is a highly attractive proposition for anyone with ambitions and experience in the UK or even further afield.
And the new Chief Officer - whoever who he or she may be - will have the full backing of the Scottish Government as they focus on the job ahead of them. There are challenges, of course, but this a fantastic time to be living and working in Scotland. The new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service provides further evidence that we are looking to the future with confidence, delivering innovative solutions tailored to Scotland's circumstances.
Against the backdrop of budget cuts by the Westminster government, reform of the fire and rescue services will help protect and improve local fire services - reducing duplication of support services eight times over and sustaining frontline services.
It will also give more equal access to specialist support and national capacity. So wherever and whenever services like urban search and rescue or line rescue are needed, the single service will be able to deploy them - regional boundaries and lines on maps will no longer be an issue.
And it will also strengthen the connection between services and communities, by creating a new formal relationship with each of the 32 local authorities, involving more local councillors and better integrating with community planning partnerships. A designated Local Senior Officer will work closely with the council, community and other partners to shape local fire priorities.
Who would not want to be a part of that?
Our services are strong and valued by communities across Scotland. Fire deaths are 50 per cent lower than they were a decade ago due to a concerted effort on improving community safety and we need to safeguard the hard-fought gains we have made and indeed continue to improve on them.
Working with the services, the unions, partners and communities, we have a once in a generation opportunity to reshape the Scotland's fire and rescue services to ensure they are in the best possible shape, more efficient and effective and fit and ready for the challenges of the 21st Century. That is exactly what our proposals for new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will do.
Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 0950 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org