In 2009-10, there were 5,027 firefighters in Scotland's fire and rescue services. The responsibility for the assessment of the number of firefighters belongs to our local authority partners through their fire and rescue authority structures.
They have tools at their disposal to enable the adoption of a risk-based approach to ensure that, even with reduced budgets, resources remain focused on the greatest need and therefore continue to deliver our desired outcome of a safer, stronger Scotland.
Does the minister agree that, in structuring our fire and rescue services, we must always ensure that we have in place the front-line firefighters whom the public need? What progress will be made through the publication of a new fire and rescue framework document in ensuring that there is a robust assessment of the number of firefighters required in local areas to ensure community safety?
There is a great deal of consensus in the chamber on the sentiments that the member has just expressed. It is essential that we protect front-line services. As a result, we are reviewing all aspects of the fire and rescue service to ensure that we continue to provide the front-line services that are so important to the public, but within the reduced budgets available. We should not consider closing fire stations or removing fire appliances until or unless we are clear that every possible saving has been made in all other areas. Work on finalising the priorities and objectives for a revised fire and rescue framework is related to discussions between national and local government and the fire and rescue service on the available options. However, given the framework's statutory role, it is important that any new burdens are balanced and achievable and it would be inappropriate to place additional burdens on the service until a final decision on options has been agreed.