Scotland’s fire service is in “crisis” according to a new report, which found low morale, underinvestment and budget cuts are impacting severely on firefighters’ ability to respond effectively to serious and life-threatening incidents.

The study by the Fire Brigades Union (FRU) comes just weeks after officers claimed service cuts may have hampered the bid to save Ayr's Station Hotel during the recent devastating blaze.

Last month we revealed firefighters' fury that Ayrshire had been left with just one high rise appliance - while some stations in Ayrshire were so short-staffed they could no longer respond to emergencies.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) strongly denied the cuts would cause a major impact on tackling fires in Ayrshire.

Ayr Advertiser: The Station Hotel fireThe Station Hotel fire (Image: NQ archive)

The new FBU report, titled Firestorm, and due to be laid before MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, assesses the challenges faced by the SFRS.

It identifies serious concerns with the situation in the fire service, with firefighters raising issues around response times, poor training, poor equipment and health concerns about fire contaminants.

One firefighter told the union that the SFRS had done “almost nothing” to combat the physical effects they have.

The firefighter said: “The SFRS has done almost nothing [on contaminants] apart from provide wipes on appliances. That’s it.

“Patting yourself down with wipes after being exposed to a fire for hours just doesn’t cut it.”

Additionally, the report also pointed to the condition of buildings in the SFRS estate, with 14 having issues with crumbling reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

Concerns at the state of several of Ayrshire's fire stations were raised by a regional MSP in May.

One firefighter who was interviewed as part of the report said there were no personal issue respirators or adequate welfare facilities for larger incidents at their station.

Ayr Advertiser: Ayr lost its high reach appliance

Additionally, firefighters felt the training provided was inconsistent and inadequate, with trainees coming into fire stations (known as watches) without having experience of “hot fire” training, which replicates the heat, smoke logging and conditions experienced in a variety of different fire settings.

In a survey accompanying the report, around 93 per cent of respondents told the FBU they did not believe the SFRS was “adequately resourced enough to deal with the increase in climate-related incidents such as wildfires and flooding”.

The report also called for the pension age of firefighters to be lowered from 60 to 55 as some workers feel they are unable to work in the physically and mentally challenging operational role until they are 60.

The FBU is currently consulting members over taking strike action in opposition to the cuts the union said have been imposed by the Scottish Government.

A projected, five-year, flat cash budget, in place until 2027, has already removed 10 whole-time fire engines and 150 retained appliances are regularly unavailable due to significant recruitment and retention issues, the union said.

The SFRS announced that it will need to save a minimum of £14 million next year which could result in the loss of a further 339 firefighters and 18 fire engines, with more to come.

Scotland has lost 1,200 frontline firefighters since 2012, the union has previously claimed.

John McKenzie, Scottish secretary of the FBU, said: “We cannot go on like this. Our members and the public have had enough.

“If the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is to meet the challenges of our times, we need immediate and radical change and this report sets out what that should look like.

“Over the last decade we have been failed by political leaders who have tried to ignore this crisis. They cannot ignore us now.

“It is now up to the Scottish Government, the SFRS management and all political parties to respond positively to this report, reverse the cuts and help build a fire and rescue service that aspires to be world-leading.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Firefighters play a vital role in protecting communities and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has continued to deliver the high standard of services required to keep Scotland safe.

"Despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing SFRS with more than £368 million this year, an increase of £14.4 million on 2022-23.

"Whilst allocation of resources, along with recruitment and retention of firefighters, is an operational matter for SFRS, we are maintaining frontline services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK. Ministers will continue engaging with the FBU to discuss their concerns."

Scottish Conservative deputy justice spokesperson Sharon Dowey MSP said: "Brave and hardworking firefighters are doing their job with one hand tied behind their back and are beyond breaking point.

"SNP ministers must finally step up and deliver the funding our fire service needs, before the catastrophic consequences of not doing so are keenly felt."

Chief officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Ross Haggart said: "We note the publication of the FBU report and specifically of concerns highlighted of behaviours which fall beneath our high standards. We have a zero tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination and the safety and wellbeing of staff is paramount.

"We must modernise to ensure we are best placed to meet the changing risk and demand we face, while also addressing our ongoing financial challenges. 

"We will take time to give full and proper consideration to the contents of this report and continue to work with all representative bodies, including the FBU, on potential impacts of any future savings and identify potential areas for improvement."