Danny Alexander speaks out against fire control room closures

If you’ve followed Scottish politics over the last few years, one theme will be very clear. The SNP Government will centralise anything that sits still for more than 5 minutes. Nowhere is this more true than in the centralisation of the Police and fire services.

When Scotland’s eight Police services were merged into one, we were assured that local policing autonomy would be protected. After all, you wouldn’t use the same tactics in Avoch as you would in Aberdeen or Glasgow.

Earlier this year we saw heavy handed raids on saunas in Edinburgh, which had previously been treated with a degree of tolerance. It’s a sign of the procedures of Strathclyde Police being adopted across the country.

Now, we are seeing control rooms for the single fire service being closed in Inverness and Aberdeen. So the 300,000 or so people who live in these cities and their surrounding rural communities will now have to ring a control room in Dundee. That’s 60 miles from Aberdeen and 137 miles from Inverness.  The thing is that there are times when decent local knowledge will save lives. I’m not convinced that someone sitting in a control room in Dundee will have that sort of knowledge.

Inverness’s MP, our Danny Alexander, has started a campaign against the closures. He said:

It is vital to keep the control and co-ordination of our Fire and rescue services as close to the communities they serve as possible. This move could mean staff with little or no knowledge of our communities and geography being asked to make vital decisions.

Scottish Liberal Democrats warned more than two years ago that this was the danger of the SNP plans but they chose to go ahead regardless.

Now that danger has become a reality I will be seeking talks and doing everything I can to prevent this vital facility being lost to the Highlands.

I will also be launching a petition to highlight to the Scottish Government how strongly we feel about this issue in the Highlands.

And that petition? It’s right here.

As a highlander, with family still in the Highlands, who spends as much time as I can in the area, I fear what the loss of these facilities will mean to those communities. I hope that Danny wins the day. Will the Highlands’ 3 SNP MSPs fight for their local communities or buckle to the whips’ pressure in the same way as we saw other SNP MPs do over court closures?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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