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Keeping Scotland Safe and Strong: A Consultation on Reforming Police and Fire and Rescue Services in Scotland

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PART B - FIRE AND RESCUE
7. A MODERN PURPOSE FOR FIRE AND RESCUE

7.1.Our fire and rescue services are performing well with a sustained reduction in fire deaths of almost 50% over the period from 1999-2000 to 2009-10. We want to build on that success, and ensure Scottish fire and rescue continues to be dynamic, effective and trusted, making communities safer and stronger, and improving people's lives.

7.2.This section sets out our intention to express a modern purpose for fire and rescue in 21st century Scotland. The purpose will reflect the broad role which the service plays in serving communities across Scotland: including community safety initiatives; supporting local business; and partnership working with health, education, police and local authorities.

Current Arrangements

7.3.The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire (Additional Function) (Scotland) Order 2005 set out the specific functions of each Fire and Rescue Authority or Joint Board. Those functions are as follows:

  • promoting fire safety;
  • fire fighting;
  • responding to road traffic accidents;
  • enforcing fire safety legislation in non-domestic premises;
  • responding to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents;
  • providing urban search and rescue capability;
  • responding to serious flooding; and
  • responding to serious transport incidents.

7.4.In addition, section 13 of the Act gives Fire and Rescue Authorities and Joint Boards the power to respond to any other eventualities likely to cause death, injury or illness, or harm to the environment (including buildings).

7.5.There are additional duties in other pieces of legislation such as the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. These duties will remain in force, although updated to take account of a single fire and rescue service.

7.6.Section 40 of the 2005 Act requires Scottish Ministers to prepare a Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland, setting out priorities, objectives and guidance to Fire and Rescue Authorities and Joint Boards in the carrying out of their functions. The most recent Framework was published in 2005.

Scottish Government proposals

7.7.The Scottish Government is not proposing to change the functions of the fire and rescue service. However, in line with the Christie Commission recommendations that the reform of Police and Fire should lead to the achievement of better outcomes for the people and communities of Scotland, we are proposing the creation of a new purpose for the fire and rescue service that reflects the realities of its activities in the 21st century and the Scottish Government's vision for a reformed service, focussing on improving the safety and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. This might be along the lines of:

Purpose and Functions of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service:

To improve the safety and wellbeing of the people of Scotland, by working with others in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, focusing on prevention ( reducing the risk of andchanging people's perception and behaviour towards fire), protection (mitigating the effects of fire) and response (to incidents), in particular by:

  • Promoting fire safety;
  • Fire fighting;
  • Working with partners to plan for and respond to emergencies;
  • Responding to road traffic accidents;
  • Enforcing fire safety legislation in relevant premises;
  • Responding to chemical biological, radiological, or nuclear incidents;
  • Providing urban search and rescue capability;
  • Responding to serious flooding; and
  • Responding to serious transport incidents.

7.8.This would reflect the existing statutory functions, but would place these within a context of improving outcomes, promoting community engagement, prevention and partnership working. A new purpose could be created through the reform legislation, but we are proposing to embed a purpose in a revised Fire Framework. The Framework operates under section 40 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, with a legislative requirement for the Framework - containing the priorities, objectives and guidance - to be kept under review. Adherence to the Framework is governed by section 41 of the 2005 Act.

7.9.Underneath this purpose, the existing legislative functions would remain. The functions were reviewed as recently as 2005 and remain fit for purpose.

7.10. The February consultation paper also explored the prospect of fire stations coming together in community resilience hubs, working with local communities beyond the traditional community fire safety role of the fire and rescue services and supporting community safety across a wider range of emergencies. Respondents confirmed some fire and rescue services already provide community resilience functions.

7.11. The exact nature of the hubs varies across Scotland depending upon local circumstance and need. As such, we are not proposing to make this a legislative function. As with other functions we propose that integrated risk management planning be used to identify areas where provision is currently provided, and to identify need in the future. This would support flexible use of resources and align these services with local community planning to promote local service integration and partnership working.

Question 13: What are your views on how we might strengthen the proposed purpose? Should the purpose be set out in the Fire Framework, or in some other way?

Question 14: What are your views on our plans to retain existing functions for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service?