Decisions on such issues are, of course, operational matters for the
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. I understand that, in fact, there is no current business case for the development of residential accommodation at the national training centre in Cambuslang. The service’s approach is, rather, to invest in training facilities around Scotland to enable firefighters to be trained nearer to home, therefore reducing the requirement for travel and overnight stays at Cambuslang or other locations.
In March 2015, the SFRS closed the Scottish Fire Service College at Gullane, moving training to Cambuslang in order to save £4.8 million per annum. Does the minister believe that the lack of accommodation at the Cambuslang centre, and the resultant use of hotels to house trainees, has delivered the expected savings, or does she share my concern that annual running costs may now exceed the amount that it would have cost to keep the Gullane college open?
Michelle Ballantyne may be interested to note that a major building project is currently under way at Newbridge in Edinburgh to provide enhanced training facilities in the east delivery area. Next year, another major construction project at Portlethen in Aberdeen will provide enhanced training facilities in the north delivery area. She will therefore appreciate that a number of investments are being made in training closer to where firefighters are.
The service has also just launched a new training unit at Kirkwall airport in Orkney.
As I said in my first answer—[
.] Edinburgh and Gullane are not that far apart.
Finally, as I said in my first answer, the focus is on investment in training facilities around Scotland, and the business case for accommodation at Cambuslang simply does not represent value for money. Of course, if Michelle Ballantyne is concerned about resources for the SFRS, perhaps she would join me in calling on her UK Government to pay back the £50 million in VAT that it has deprived front-line firefighters of over the past five years.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, in line with Scottish ministers’ expectations, considers the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises and including community benefits in all its procurement exercises. Of course, the national training centre in Cambuslang is supported by various local businesses, such as those that provide catering for the many excellent events and conferences that take place there. Clare Haughey can be assured that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service well understands the need to ensure that the local community benefits from the national training centre being in Cambuslang.