Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2016

The Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2016 sets out priorities and objectives for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

Introduction and Context

The Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2016 ('the Framework') sets out Scottish Ministers' expectations of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ( SFRS). The Framework provides the SFRS with strategic priorities and objectives, together with guidance on how the delivery of its functions should contribute to the Scottish Government's purpose.

Legislative basis

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was established as a single national organisation by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 [1] ('the 2012 Act') to provide fire and rescue services across Scotland. The 2012 Act also amended the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 [2] ('the 2005 Act') to take account of fire reform and further modernise and update the functions of the SFRS [3] .

Scottish Ministers have a statutory duty [4] to prepare a Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland setting priorities and objectives and providing guidance to the SFRS on the execution of its functions. The SFRS has a statutory duty [5] to have regard to the Framework when preparing its Strategic Plan which sets out how it will deliver its functions as well as setting out the outcomes which will be used to measure its performance in doing so. The outcome measures set out in the SFRS's Strategic Plan will be accompanied by specific targets linked to the delivery of the strategic priorities and objectives specified in this Framework.

Strategic Priority 1: Performance Measures

The SFRS must, in discussion with the Scottish Government, specify appropriate performance measures to support its Strategic Plan, for the delivery of outcomes relating to the strategic priorities and objectives set out in this Framework.

Contribution to the Scottish Government's Purpose and National Outcomes

The Scottish Government's purpose is "to focus public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth". The SFRS has a vital role in securing this priority and is expected to work together with other public services to contribute towards it.

The SFRS's delivery of the priorities and objectives set out in this Framework will also help to achieve the Scottish Government's purpose by contributing to the delivery of the National Outcomes [6] , including:

  • we live longer, healthier lives (National Outcome 6);
  • we live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger (National Outcome 9);
  • we have improved the life chances for children, young people and families at risk (National Outcome 8);
  • we have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others (National Outcome 11); and
  • our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs (National Outcome 16).

SFRS purpose

It is no longer the case that the SFRS simply responds to fires when they arise, although that remains a vital element in keeping people safe. Its role has expanded over time and that expansion is reflected in the purpose of the SFRS, which was set as part of the Police and Fire Reform process in 2013:

The main purpose of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is to work in partnership with communities and with others in the public, private and third sectors, on prevention, protection and response, to improve the safety and well-being of people throughout Scotland [7] .

The SFRS's purpose embodies the Scottish Government's aspirations for the Service to achieve better outcomes for the people of Scotland. In carrying out its purpose the SFRS should increasingly work with its partners to identify and focus on mitigating risks facing communities, including, but not exclusively, risks from fire, in order to keep communities and citizens safe and promote their well-being.

Embedding the benefits of reform and ensuring continuous improvement

Audit Scotland's 2015 review of Fire Reform [8] concluded that the Scottish Government and the SFRS managed the merger of the eight fire and rescue services effectively. Audit Scotland also concluded that the performance of the SFRS is improving and that the move from eight local fire and rescue services to a national organisation has enhanced the scrutiny and challenge of the SFRS.

The creation of a single national fire and rescue service was merely the start of a journey. The reform process and the improvement in outcomes that it is delivering is on-going. The SFRS has already achieved almost all of what was asked of it as a consequence of Fire Reform, and remains on track to deliver the remaining demands and savings expectations from the reform process. While continuing to embed those achievements in its internal operations, and in how it works with partners, the SFRS needs to continually evolve, adapt and transform in order to keep achieving success.

This on-going reform should build on the four pillars of the Christie Commission [9] :

  • prioritising Prevention, building on the preventative focus of existing fire and rescue activities;
  • grounding activity in Partnership working, strengthening connections with communities;
  • focusing on People, ensuring workforce development, health and well-being, and harmonious industrial relations remain priorities; and
  • emphasising continuous improvement, with ambitious targets and a robust Performance Framework.

The SFRS should increasingly adopt an evidence-led approach and explore how it will continue to change what it does; how it operates; how it works with communities and partners in achieving success and in how it will further develop its people to fully engage in making further organisational changes that drive better outcomes for the people and communities of Scotland.

The changing context for the SFRS

All organisations need to adapt to their operating context which continually shifts around them, creating new and ever more complex demands on them. The contribution which the SFRS and its legacy Services have made to improving safety across Scotland's communities is clear and stands in testimony to the people who have worked in all of the Services over the years.

This Framework advocates further evolution because the context in which the SFRS operates and the challenges that it faces are continuing to evolve. In particular, Scotland is facing changes in our population, our climate and in the expectations the public holds for all public services. The result is that Scotland is facing ever more complex challenges, the consequences of which are having profound impacts at community level.

We are confident that the SFRS will evolve and adapt to meet these challenges and requirements including:

  • Public service reform - the Scottish Government has placed the joint planning and sharing of resources between public services, coupled with better engagement with communities, at the core of public service reform. This includes the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 [10] together with reforms to Health and Social Care [11] and Community Justice [12] . The SFRS should continue to work with partners to ensure it continues to contribute to the progress of this agenda.
  • Realising efficiencies and improving productivity - the current public sector financial climate further reinforces the need to reduce costs by preventing, rather than responding to, fires and other emergency incidents. This will in turn call for maximum and sustained effort in generating efficiencies and working collaboratively with others, while maintaining the high standards of delivery, governance and transparency that the SFRS has already achieved.
  • Social and economic inequality - the Scottish Government has made the reduction of inequality in our society a priority. Much of the operational demand facing the SFRS has its origins in the consequences and impacts of social and economic inequality. In responding to inequality, all public services, including the SFRS, will be expected to work together, share their resources and jointly target services, and work with those communities who experience the highest levels of inequality. This includes fulfilling Corporate Parenting responsibilities to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of looked after children and care leavers as described in Part 9 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 [13] .
  • Scotland's population is changing - over the next 20 years we will see a significant rise in the proportion of over 65's within the Scottish population and a decline in the proportion of working age adults. This shift will generate new demands within our communities as we seek to keep an ageing population safe and healthy. The change in the population will be accompanied by a sustained shift towards home-based care, away from care in institutional settings. These trends will increase the number of people who are at risk of fire and other forms of preventable harm, such as trips and falls, within the home environment. This will increase the drive for the SFRS to work with partners to focus on prevention to minimise people's exposure to harm.
  • Building community resilience - as our climate changes, more communities across Scotland will face greater risks from flooding than ever before. Moreover, our evidence indicates that the impact of such events has increased in financial terms as well as in human terms. There is therefore a need for the SFRS to have an increasing focus on building resilience in relation to flood risk as well as other threats, as well as a focus on major and potentially catastrophic events impacting on national infrastructure such as terrorism. A key factor in managing such incidents and in keeping communities safer in general is the resilience of communities themselves. Resilient communities can better withstand adverse events and the SFRS should work together with other public services to enable and support communities to develop and enhance their own resilience.

Many of these challenges are clearly interlinked. Collectively they present the SFRS with the need to continue with the change programme that began with Fire Reform in 2013. The past three years has largely focussed on the consolidation and integration of the legacy Fire Service organisations and their practices and processes. The next phase of change will focus on genuine transformation and will challenge the SFRS to consider further how it designs and delivers services, how it operates in partnership with other public services and with communities themselves and how it will meet the financial challenges that lie ahead.

The SFRS should also pursue its purpose by adopting new ways of working and embrace new technologies that help keep firefighters and communities safer. In so doing the SFRS will continue to be held in the highest regard by the public, communities and by the Scottish Government. Meeting these challenges calls for clear and coherent leadership and action from the SFRS to ensure that it continues to deliver its functions effectively to keep communities safe.

Setting the Strategic Priorities

This Framework sets out strategic priorities for the SFRS for the period starting from 2016. These priorities are outcome-focused, set within the context of the Scottish Government's purpose, and the on-going need for public sector reform. These priorities form the basis for the narrative of the following chapters of the Framework. Many of these priorities are overarching and are relevant to several aspects of the SFRS's role. The strategic priorities for the SFRS are summarised at Annex A and appear in greater detail in the following chapters of the Framework.

This chapter provides context on the current functions of the Service, which include contributing to improving the safety and well-being of Scotland's communities and the delivery of functions such as prevention and protection; response and resilience; community planning and partnership working. This chapter also explains how the Framework advocates further change in how the Service operates and the complex challenges that it faces.

This chapter looks at realising the benefits of Fire Reform and managing the change from the eight previous Services into a single organisation. The chapter also looks to the future role of the firefighter; modernising emergency response; and how the Service should utilise resources to deliver a more holistic, creative and preventative service to, and with, communities.

This chapter focuses on the SFRS's role as a public body and how it should have systems in place to ensure an effective approach to performance management to support robust scrutiny of the Service at national and local levels. Areas such as Equality and Diversity; Human Rights; Climate Change; Building on our National Digital Public Service Strategy and how the SFRS should aim to be an employer of choice are also covered in this chapter.


Email: Iain Harron,

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