The campaign by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to ensure firefighters qualify for ill-health pensions took a step forward this week when the Scottish government pledged to alter regulations to safeguard firefighter pensions in Scotland.
“Today’s announcement will be a massive relief to firefighters throughout Scotland,” said Ken Ross, the FBU’s Scottish regional secretary.
The row over pensions follows new guidance issued last year by the department of communities and local government that stopped paying pensions to firefighters who had retired on grounds of ill health.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack has warned of national strike action by the union if the issue is not resolved swiftly. The Scottish government’s decision will pile pressure on Westminster to change its position.
The move over pensions comes as the FBU released a report criticising the government for not doing enough to prevent assaults on firefighters while on duty. According to FBU figures the number of such assaults is rising – though the government claims the opposite.
“Frustration, boredom, alcohol and drug use can all fuel the problems of youngsters living in communities and on estates where they feel they are on the margins of society,” said Matt Wrack.
“The outcome can be recreational violence aimed at whatever represents the wider society these youngsters on these estates feel excluded from. The highest numbers of attacks are in areas characterised by poor housing, poverty and few or no facilities for young people.
“Understanding why attacks happen is not to condone or accept them as part of the job, but to help us address the problem.”