Council backs Fire Brigades Union bid to stop River Clyde water rescue changes

The River Clyde at Jamaica Street

The River Clyde at Jamaica Street

An overhaul of Glasgow’s water rescue service should be halted, according to city councillors.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) wants to free up the dedicated crew who monitor the River Clyde for regular duties.

Two boats are currently staffed by 15 firefighters who only attend water emergencies.

Glasgow’s councillors backed a motion yesterday which calls for a rethink.

The motion tabled Scottish Greens councillor Dr Nina Baker – and backed by Labour councillor George Redmond – means the local authority will now lobby the Chief Fire Officer to retain the existing set up.

Dr Baker said: “In Glasgow with its many rivers, canals and other bodies of water, the principal causes of death in emergencies when SFRS has been called, are due to drowning…in Glasgow, the fast running tidal Clyde and its various tributaries and other bodies of water constitute a significant risk which deserves to have specialist-trained personnel who are not diverted to other duties.”

Dr Baker added: “Council believes that the Scottish Government’s Draft Fire Framework document for 2016 requires an operational delivery model to be flexible and tailored to meet the differing risks within the local community, which is reflected within the local senior officers’ plan as tailored to the local pattern of needs and that one size does not fit all parts of Scotland.”

A letter will now be sent to the Chief Fire Officer which states the council’s “strongest wish to retain” the current system.

Speaking after the council meeting, Dr Baker said: “Water-related fatalities are sadly all too common and by no means all are suicides. The council has unanimously agreed that the exceptional, existing risks in Glasgow means that the SFRS policy of one-size-fits-all is not appropriate to the city and that at least one boat with a dedicated crewing model is essential.”

The council’s decision was welcomed by Chris McGlone of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

He said: “I would obviously support efforts to protect a tried and tested resource.

“The decision by the (Scottish Fire and Rescue) service has been delayed following discussion with myself, the service and the Chief Fire Officer.

“The discussion I had with the Chief was that the original decision to implement change to crewing arrangements be postponed to allow us to discuss it further, however, we have a difference opinion in relation to this.

“We are fully behind firefighters and FBU members, who crew the boat from Polmadie Community Fire Station, in their continued efforts to defend and protect what is widely acknowledged as a first class emergency response to water rescue incidents on the River Clyde.

“If the proposed change is implemented, we believe it will compromise the safety of members of the public and responding crews.”

The spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service insisted safety is “our key priority”.

He said: “We inherited a range of crewing models from Scotland’s eight former services and work has been ongoing to standardise these.

“We constantly review the crewing levels at our stations to ensure our personnel are deployed to where they best meet the needs of our communities.

“This not only ensures the safe and effective operation of vital emergency resources, but further benefits the public by providing additional firefighters for other appliances.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is committed to ensuring that its specialist resources can be quickly and effectively deployed to protect people and property at any emergency.

“We ensure that our water rescue teams are always ready to save lives wherever and whenever they are needed and this includes fully maintaining and operating the two water rescue boats currently in service on the Clyde.”