An alarm has been sounded over the future if of Dumfries and Galloway’s network of rural fire stations
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has stated that it must make savings in the near future and fears have been voiced by local politicians that much of the district’s countryside might be stripped of its small but highly-valued local stations, most manned by part-time, retained firefighters.
The area’s current network consists of stations at Sanquhar, Thornhill, Moffat, New Galloway, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart, Langholm, Gatehouse, Annan, Kirkcudbright, Gretna, Stranraer and Drummore.
The MP for Dumfriesshire, Tweedale and Clyesdale and UK government Scots Secretary David Mundell was first to state the countryside stations might be the first victims of the coming cutbacks. He was a prominent campaigner against Police Scotland’s axeing of many of its small, part-time rural stations and fears history may be about to repeat iself.
He told the Gazette: “I am greatly concerned to hear of any planned cutbacks to fire stations and crew numbers across Scotland and urgent clarification needs to be provided by fire chiefs.
“As has been seen with the centralised Police Scotland in recent years, it has been rural communities such as Dumfries and Galloway who have been hit hardest by the closure of stations and my concern is that we would see similar happening in terms of the fire service.
“All too often now when it comes to our emergency services, the protection of the public is an afterthought to how money can be saved and that attitude needs to change.
“I hope that any proposals will protect our rural communities who simply shouldn’t be relying on emergency services based miles away from their home. Centralisation simply hasn’t served rural communities well at all and once again local people are left wondering if they will have access to an emergency service on their doorstep.”
South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth also expressed fears, stating: “These proposals are deeply worrying. Our emergency services should not bear the brunt of further austerity from the UK Government, simply
being passed on by the Scottish Government. If there are any plans for closures in our area, then I will vigorously oppose those cuts.”
Fire chiefs and the Scottish Government has issued reassurances that any proposed changes to local services will be the subject of a full public consultation process before any final decisions are made.
See Pages 4 and 5.