Contingency Planning Arrangements for Industrial Action in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
91. Faced with the very real possibility of industrial unrest resulting from a National pay dispute, the SFRS diverted significant resources and human capital towards the planning for any potential IA. In taking the approach that it did, the SFRS maintained strategic control on IA planning arrangements through its IATAG with direct oversight from its Senior Leadership Team. The work of the IATAG was supported by a wide range of sub-groups. All of these assisted the SFRS to ensure that appropriate planning and testing of arrangements, over a period of many months, was undertaken in advance of any IA. IA planning became an area that required significant focus for the SFRS from July 2022 until the time when the latest pay offer was accepted in March 2023.
92. Having considered the arrangements in place, and actions taken by the SFRS in response to the threat of IA, we accept that the Service gave significant consideration to a range of options as it planned for responding to emergency incidents across Scotland. During IA, the SFRS would have had in place arrangements on which it would have made logical emergency appliance mobilisations. We acknowledge the wide-ranging work and effort that has gone into the development of a response model to provide resources to a range of incidents. However, we also conclude that in some areas of Scotland there would have been a significant reduction in available operational appliances, a reduced level of operational capabilities and a large reduction in available skilled personnel who would normally respond to emergency calls. As a consequence of this, communities and businesses in Scotland may have been exposed to an increased level of risk during the IA.
93. In conclusion, we accept that the Service took appropriate steps to consider available options for the maintenance of resources, and for offsetting risk during IA. While we support the direction taken, this Inspection Report has made recommendations for the SFRS to consider. We are pleased that IA has been avoided on this occasion and would urge the Service to reflect on this experience in an effort to learn valuable lessons and ensure Business Continuity Arrangements are robust, regularly reviewed, and routinely practiced.