Home   News   Article

Scanlon calls for Fire Board to apologise

By SPP Reporter

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Mary Scanlon - time to move on
Mary Scanlon - time to move on

An MSP has called on members of the Highland and Islands Fire Board to apologise to the public and forget about an independent inquiry into the past failings of the region’s fire service.

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said the councillors on the board – which governs the Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service – should scrap plans for the probe into the well documented problems but instead say sorry and look to the future.

The Accounts Commission published a highly critical report into the brigade in March which highlighted poor leadership, sub-standard firefighter training and more than 30 stations in need of investment.

A row broke out at the first meeting of the new board in Inverness, following the council elections in May, about holding an independent inquiry into the events which led up to the damning report issued by the public watchdog.

Clerk Michelle Morris told the board, which still features most of the councillors who served on the previous body, that two local authorities had turned down the request to carry out the inquiry which would investigate documents stretching back nine years.

She asked and eventually got, despite the protests of some councillors, more time to invite an outside organisation to carry out the work which could cost up to £10,000.

Board member Hamish Wood criticised some of his colleagues’ calls to get Highland Council to do the probe instead and said it was vital an unconnected authority was employed because the public had lost confidence in the board and fire service.

Mrs Scanlon, who is the deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s public audit committee, had previously said the inquiry would be "worth every penny" and described the commission’s scathing report as the worst she had read in 13 years as a MSP.

But the Highlands and Islands MSP has now changed her mind after being reassured by the work carried out by the fire service, led by deputy chief fire officer Stewart Edgar, in addressing the criticism and now believes the findings of the watchdog should be accepted.

"Instead of councillors looking for another inquiry it would be far better to focus on the excellent work being carried out by Stewart Edgar in terms of training, investment in IT and support for firefighters," said Mrs Scanlon.

"They should look forward and thank the firefighters and the personnel brought in to put right the serious failings that were identified in the Accounts Commission report.

"Why do they want to go back and carry out another investigation? There is no need for an independent inquiry, the Accounts Commission is highly regulated and respected around Scotland and by other countries.

"I think the convener and councillors who are on the fire board should apologise to the people of the Highlands for allowing the service to deteriorate to such a state that it had to be named and shamed. I just hope that it will bite the bullet."

However, Councillor Wood (Aird and Loch Ness) said it was important the inquiry was held because the board was "a very public" organisation which had to be transparent and there were conflicting views on the criticism levelled by the commission which had to be investigated.

"I appreciate where Mary is coming from and we do have to look to the future," he said. "But I do not think the inquiry will impinge on the work being done now because it will be looking at things from a historical perspective. Hopefully an independent inquiry will show what did happen so history will be written correctly."

Councillor Wood said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on whether a public apology should be made because he had not previously served on the board.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More