Blame game ignites over Whithorn Fireworks

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Fire and Rescue Scotland has denied cancelling the community bonfire and fireworks display in Whithorn tomorrow night (Saturday) because, allegedly, firefighters in the town were not trained to handle fireworks.

Having previously run a well attended event for nine years, the Whithorn crew was told by bosses not to get involved this year in a professional capacity. The firefighters organisation now says the community council is to blame for the fiasco.

A Fire and Rescue Scotland spokesperson said: “Claims the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service cancelled this event are entirely inaccurate. The community council applied to the local authority for a license to run a fireworks display and bonfire at Whithorn Fire Station without consulting the fire service and without putting measures in place to ensure it would be safely organised. We were obliged to advise that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service does not hold public liability insurance to run bonfires or fireworks displays, but made clear we did not want the event to be cancelled. We suggested the community council run their event on the land adjacent to the station and said that firefighters who chose to be involved could do so in a personal capacity, provided that those ‘on-call’ could still respond to emergencies. Despite this suggestion the community council opted to cancel their event. We hope the organisers will plan for next year to ensure they can deliver a safe and sustainable event.”

Julia Muir Watt, on behalf of Whithorn Community Council replied: “This is completely and utterly inaccurate. The community council has never run the event, but does fund the public liability insurance, which it paid for at the request of the local volunteer firefighters. The Entertainment Licence was not applied for by the Community Council and never has been; we have never contacted the local authority for any licence. The arrangements have always been that the firefighters organise the event and then contact the Fire and Rescue Service, as they did, with risk assessments and evidence of insurance, which the Community Council provided. The Fire and Rescue Service is always informed of the event and in this instance, failed to respond for weeks when the risk assessments were provided.

“It is simply cowardly of Fire and Rescue Scotland to try to put the blame on the local body. The Fire and Rescue Service has been caught out by all the negative publicity they have received and are now scrambling to find a scapegoat in the local community; it’s frankly disgusting.”

Mid Galloway Council Alistair Geddes added: “The fire service have dealt with this whole issue in a crass and insensitive fashion. As a consequence, they have already inflicted significant reputational damage on their service, locally, at least. On the top of that, we are now being treated to the unedifying spectacle of them trying to justify their stance, by blaming others who have no responsibility for the mess which they have created.”