BBC Scotland’s dishonest reporting of firefighter shortages in Aberdeen


(Image: Alistair Linford)

BBC Scotland news have been making much of their recent discovery that:

‘Three Aberdeen fire engines stood down due to staffing problems’

The headline is quite dishonest and tabloid-like in its attempt to scare. In fact, one vehicle was not available last Tuesday and two were not available on Wednesday. There is a big gap between the headline and the facts here. At no time, were three vehicles unavailable. On only one day were two unavailable. On only two days in the previous three or four months (100 plus days) were any vehicles unavailable. BBC Scotland last reported problems in April 2018.

How much of a risk is death by fire?

From the BBC:

England: The figures for July 2016 to June 2017 put the annual total at 346, which was 20% up from the previous year’s figure of 289. We do not have comparable figures for July to June in previous years.

Scotland: There were 44 fire-related casualties in Scotland in 2016-17, down [2%] from 45 the previous year.

How much are firefighter numbers falling?


Firefighter numbers in Scotland fell by 1.2% between 2016 and 2017 and by 13% from 2011.

In England:

‘If we restrict ourselves to just firefighters, there were 29,018 full-time equivalent firefighters employed directly by their fire services across England in 2010. That had fallen to 22,957 in 2017 – that’s a drop of just over 6,000.’

That’s a fall of 21%.

Occasional shortages of firefighters are common across the UK:

Surrey firefighters ‘bailed out’ by London colleagues on another day of …

Chronic staff shortages at North Yorkshire fire control leave public …

Firefighter raises alarm over inadequate cover in Torbay – Devon Live

Struggle to fill vacancies at rural fire stations that rely on part-time …

Firefighter shortage means Norfolk crew cannot go out to emergencies …

Spire FM – News – Amesbury Fire Station tackling crew shortages

Shortage of crews at Suffolk fire station | Latest Ipswich News – Ipswich …

Fire crew shortage in Gwynedd and Anglesey ‘could be putting lives at …

North Wales fire staff shortages put lives at risk say whistleblowers …

Staff shortages at Dublin Fire Brigade trigger reduced services

Report reveals shortage of Highland firefighters – The Scotsman

Retained firefighter shortage adds up to thousands of hours …

Stockport fire station closes because of firefighter shortage …


Campaign begins for more people to become Crediton firefighters …

Orkney’s fire stations facing staff shortages – The Orcadian Online

Petworth emergencies raise fire service concerns – Midhurst and …

Newquay fire chief admits staff shortage – Telegraph

I don’t have the time or the will to check how small-scale the Aberdeen shortages were compared to any of those listed above. Perhaps BBC Scotland’s large team of research assistants might like to?


16 thoughts on “BBC Scotland’s dishonest reporting of firefighter shortages in Aberdeen

  1. Ann Forbes August 10, 2018 / 9:25 am

    ‘On only two days in the previous three or four months (100 plus days) were any vehicles unavailable’
    Maybe it’s me but I at first I thought you were saying that there were no vehicles available on two days !

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alasdair Macdonald August 10, 2018 / 10:38 am

    This is, at least, the second such story recently about the alleged shortages in Aberdeen. The source of the first was the local FBU, who were using it as a lever to oppose staffing reorganisations and reductions and other contractual issues.

    Having been a lifelong trade unionist I have no problems with unions putting out arguments in support of their members’ case. Usually such statements are true, but not the whole truth. The job of journalists is to check the robustness of such statements and any from management, too. It is not to pass such statements off as news.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Ludo Thierry August 10, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    Since the story involves Aberdeen I ‘m not drifting too far off topic when I mention a story regarding the tory councillor (and, terrifyingly, Depute Provost of Aberdeen) carried in the Record – snippet below:

    Scottish Tory councillor has been dragged into the Boris Johnson burka row after it emerged he compared Muslim women to patio umbrellas.

    Aberdeenshire deputy provost Ron McKail apologised last night after the Daily Record confronted him over social media posts mocking women who wear traditional Islamic dress.

    McKail, who sits on the council’s education and children’s committee, shared an image of several long cloth coverings with hoods on Facebook.

    The accompanying text said: “I spent half an hour talking to them, wanting to learn about their culture until the bartender cut me off and told me they were patio umbrellas.”

    McKail, who represents the Westhill ward in Aberdeenshire, previously apologised for sharing social media posts from far-right political party Britain First and the English Defence League. At the time, he said he was “not savvy about social media” and had not realised where the posts had come from.

    Asked if he agreed with Boris Johnson’s comments on the burka, he said: “Not at all. No.”

    McKail seems to be a serial apologiser doesn’t he? – Interesting that Col. Davidson didn’t feel the need to call her Aberdeen tory chappie out, after all, she has just been trying to win favour in the ‘progressive’ London press by bigging up her criticisms of Mad Boris – see snippet below:

    In one of the most critical comments of Mr Johnson’s column, Ms Davidson suggested the incendiary remarks were calculated. “I think that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff slip, he wrote a column, he knew exactly what he was doing and I think it crossed from being provocative and starting a debate and actually it became rude and gratuitous,” she said.

    Col. ‘Harrison’ couldn’t be accused of ignoring dubious behaviour amongst her own troops whilst trying to impress Treeza by mouthing off re. Bonkers Boris could she? – Surely not??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2018 / 11:42 am

      To be fair to THE COLONEL she has for a fair time been explicitly hostile to Mr Johnson. During the Brexit referendum, in one of the televised debates she savaged him pretty severely.

      It is on the basis of this that the metropolitan ‘progressive’ media decided that she was the person to lead THE NATION forward, and she was NOT that terrible Sturgeon woman.

      I suspect, too, that Ms Davidson finds Mr Johnson’s treatment of women, in general, appalling and that his piece about women who wear the burqa was as much misogynistic as it was racist and islamophobic, but above all, calculated to appeal to the baleful underbelly of the constituency Tory parties as well as the xenophobia who voted Leave.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. gavin August 10, 2018 / 1:17 pm

    “On seven days this week, no journalists were available at BBC Scotland”.—-a totally fabricated headline from todays Hootsman(one you would NEVER see).

    Meanwhile, in a studio far, far away (from reality, that is)=

    “What does this mean, Douglas. What on earth are they referring to”?
    “Well, Jackie. On some days, we have…. um…some of the staff off for training for the new news service. Then again we have support staff up from London to, ……tell us what to say, on any given subject”.
    “But is that unusual, Douglas? We are always told what to say. That is BBC Scotland journalism”!
    “No, but yes, Jackie. Its business as per normal for us here in the Bunker . Though things aren’t helped by Ruthie@Tories R uz hiding out in the BBC canteen with all her *These Island* chums”.
    “Douglas, many of the *These Island* people are being assessed for suitability the new “Scottish Hour”, but they are totally recommended by London as unutterably honest, impartial and unbiased observers of the Scottish scene. They are a shoo-in to be our new colleagues”.
    “That’s….um….. great, Jackie, but I have to go now. The script for tonight’s news is just in. I’ll need to learn it by heart, so as to regurgitate it “off the cuff”, har har”.!
    Oh, well I better learn mine as well. Smirk!……………. “Tonight, the SNP have been accused by international whitabouterry experts…………………………………………………..”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Ludo Thierry August 10, 2018 / 1:25 pm

    Further interesting editorialising on the beeb Scotland site recently. I noticed the story about Councillor Ashley Graczyk of Edinburgh City Council in various press outlets – but not appearing (even on the Edinburgh page) on the beeb site.

    Councillor Graczyk’s ward forms part of Col. ‘Harrison’s’ Scottish Parlt. Constituency – which makes the story even more interesting. (As Councillor Graczyk is a community activist – whilst Col. Harrison has held only a single constituency surgery – I wonder which one best represents the views of the local residents?).

    WELL DONE Councillor Ashley Graczyk – and welcome aboard the YES EXPRESS – Your identified arguments are solid and well considered – I shouldn’t imagine The Colonel will want to have a public debate with Ashley any time soon: See Sunday post edit below:

    AN Edinburgh councillor has hit out at her former party as she reveals she now backs Scottish independence.

    In a Twitter post, ex-Tory Ashley Graczyk said the “increasingly safe and sensible choice” is for Scotland to leave the UK but remain in the “heart of Europe”, also condemning the “selfish” Conservative Government.

    Ms Graczyk, who is profoundly deaf, said they “look for any excuse to not support disabled or vulnerable people and favour the rich”.

    She said: “I have been brought up with the UK as my country and all my life I had seen the whole of the UK as my homeland. I don’t want to see new borders as I’m about finding new and practical ways to break down barriers and unite people.

    “But I came to the realisation that to preserve and protect the values we have in Scotland, we cannot have policies imposed on us from Westminster that jar with the kind of Scotland we are trying to build. So simply, we need independence.

    “Scotland’s traditional liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality and individual rights need to be protected.

    “The increasingly safe and sensible choice seems to be for Scotland to stay at the heart of Europe, independent and in control of our own destiny. It is time to embrace Yes with full confidence in our future.”

    She announced last week that she had left the Conservative Party having been elected to represent the Sighthill / Gorgie area of the capital in 2017.

    She voted against independence in the 2014 referendum.

    Sharing Ms Graczyk’s post on Twitter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “well worth a read”.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Contrary August 10, 2018 / 7:32 pm

    And, of course, the staffing problems with the fire service come down to Westminster policy.

    Mind I watched that audit committee meeting, and their conclusion was that the biggest problem in staffing was due to the reduction in lifetime earnings introduced by Westminster, meaning senior fire service personnel retire early (apparently becoming a problem in the health service with senior doctors too), so less mentoring and experienced management, and making it harder to recruit. Aberdeen shouldn’t have the staff problem of rural areas, where most fire people are part-time – in those cases it is societal changes (people travel further to work at the day job & are not available locally at short notice) that is causing the problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2018 / 11:53 am


      This is an interesting shaft of light you have thrown on this issue, which I had not met before.

      When you talk of ‘lifetime earnings’ are you talking in terms of individual pensions maxima or are you indicating that within the public sector there is an actual ceiling on the amount that an individual can earn over a career? I worked at a fairly high level in public service for close to 40 years, but I cannot recall any cumulative pay maximum. Mind you, I retired over 9 years ago and a lot has changed during that time.

      Can you provide some background and links so that I can research this matter?

      Liked by 1 person

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