Within the United Kingdom (UK) the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is a devolved matter and Scotland took the opportunity to re-establish its Fire Service Inspectorate in 2013, at the same time as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was created from the eight legacy services. The Inspectorate has detailed knowledge of the way a Fire & Rescue Service operates, the Chief Inspector being a former Fire Service Principal Officer with all other members of the team having complementary and long-standing experience of working either in or alongside the Scottish or a UK Fire & Rescue Service.
HM Fire Service Inspectorate in Scotland (HMFSI) exists to provide independent, risk-based and proportionate professional inspection of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS). Its purpose is to give assurance to the public and to Scottish Ministers that the SFRS is working in an efficient and effective way, and to promote and assist continuous improvement in the SFRS. HMFSI also provides independent, professional advice to Scottish Ministers and has functions in relation to non-domestic fire safety.
The statutory basis for the Inspectorate is derived from the amended 2005 Fire (Scotland) Act. The Chief Inspector holds a Royal Warrant and is appointed by an Order in Council, and is independent of Scottish Government and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.
The current Chief Inspector is Simon Routh-Jones CBE QFSM. Simon joined HMFSI in September 2016 and has led the Inspectorate since June 2018, having previously been Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service. Simon was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020 and the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in 2015.
The Chief Inspector is supported by four Assistant Inspectors who are appointed under Ministerial powers. Currently these inspectors are:
- Brian McKenzie – Brian joined HMFSI after a career in the Fire and Rescue Service. Brian has been with the Inspectorate for 17 years. In his early days Brian worked on the introduction of Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) in Scotland, then moved on to be the fire safety advisor to the Bill team that introduced the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005. A secondment followed to the Scottish Government team working on the development of guidance for the then new non-domestic fire safety regime.
- Graeme Fraser – Graeme has been a full-time member of HMFSI since May 2013, having previously undertaken a period of secondment to the Inspectorate during 2011/12. Immediately prior to joining the Inspectorate Graeme was attached to the Scottish Government Fire and Rescue Unit with a primary focus on the development of fire safety and operational advice and guidance.
- Rick Taylor – Rick was a former Chief Fire Officer, recently retired from the Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service, after completing over 34 years, Rick led on significant transformation and change programmes and was Gold Commander at a number of high-profile incidents throughout his career.
- Richard Gorst – Richard completed 32 years within Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service as an Operational Officer and had a three-year secondment at the Fire Service College. After leaving the Fire Service, Richard worked as a Sales Director in a number of fire-sector companies which specialised in equipment and PPE.
Three other staff members make up the Inspectorate team:
- Dorothy Edwardson – Dorothy is the Chief Inspector’s Personal Assistant and provides administration support to the team. Dorothy started with HM Fire Service Inspectorate in 2003 having previously worked in the Prisons Complaints Commission. Prior to that Dorothy was PA to the Head of Agriculture Policy Division during which time was involved in emergencies such as BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease.
- Lynn Murray – Lynn works behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the administration required for when the Inspections take place. Lynn works with the Chief Inspector to maintain the budget for the Inspectorate. With Lynn we have her guide dog Razor who is also very much part of the team.
- Martin Riach – Martin is the Inspection Support Manager, providing direct support to the team regarding Inspections, together with being a key member of the Inspection team. Martin was previously a Group Commander within Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and had previously been seconded to HMFSI before his retirement in January 2020 from the Service.
In addition to this core team of seven staff, HMFSI offers opportunities for members of Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to join the Inspectorate on secondment.
Steve Harkins – Steve is currently seconded to the Inspectorate from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. Steve is an experienced Group Commander with 28 years’ service and he brings with him extensive knowledge and experience of all business areas of the Service. Steve provides support to the team on all Inspection activity.
On occasions, the Inspectorate calls upon subject matter experts to assist in specialised thematic reviews.
In Scotland the Chief Inspector is required to consult on and publish a plan of the Inspections that he intends to conduct and keep that plan under review. The reports produced by the Inspectorate are published on the website with some Reports being laid in the Scottish Parliament.
All Inspection activity is carried out in accordance with our stated values of Integrity, Objectivity and Fairness.
- Integrity – putting the obligations of public service above the personal interests of inspectors.
- Objectivity – basing our inspection conclusions and recommendations on rigorous, unbiased analysis of evidence.
- Fairness – in conducting our inspections, when interacting with employees and members of the SFRS, we do so in a way that people would reasonably expect of us and not in a way that has unjustified adverse effects on those individuals.
Within our programme of work, we focus on two main types of inspections. Firstly we undertake Local Area Inspections (LAIs), which concentrate on assessing the SFRS’s provision of its responsibilities to local communities, to ensure robust delivery of service to those it serves. HMFSI conducts a maximum of four local authority area based LAIs each year in different areas of Scotland, which represent different risk profiles. The second type of inspection is thematic, covering more specifically focused Service-wide assessment on nationally identified key themes of SFRS business.
When completed, a Thematic Report is laid in the Scottish Parliament and presented to Scottish Ministers. When reports are published, the SFRS must have due regard to HMFSI reports and take such measures, if any, as it thinks fit. The Inspectorate carries out a follow-up after both types of inspections within a specified timeframe, to assess progress against recommendations.
All our inspections are carried out using the Scottish Fire and Rescue Framework (published 2016) as a guide to how we measure the effectiveness of the Service. By referencing the Framework we are able to assess how the SFRS considers the following three areas:
- The Protection of Communities: Risk, Prevention and Response
- Evolving the role of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
- Governance, Accountability and Performance of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service
The Framework also defines ten priorities for the SFRS in areas such as Safety, Well-being and Prevention, Response and Resilience, Effective Governance and Performance and Partnership, for example.
In addition to the above activities, the Inspectorate may, from time to time, respond to investigate unplanned events under the description of ‘significant incidents’ or otherwise. These can be either self-directed by the Chief Inspector or where the Scottish Ministers have directed the Chief Inspector to carry out an inquiry.
HMFSI has a statutory duty to co-operate and coordinate with the Auditor General, also working with other inspectorates and agencies across the public sector to share specific expertise and contribute to shared outcomes. We coordinate our activities to reduce the burden of inspection and avoid unnecessary duplication.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the HMFSI in carrying out its statutory duties. In March 2020, HMFSI, in line with Scottish Government guidance, suspended non-essential external activities in order to safeguard SFRS staff, the Inspectorate Team and the community we operate within. As we moved through 2020/2021, we saw various changes to the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, and the situation remains fluid and changeable. We recognise that the response to the pandemic has posed challenges to some areas of our inspection programme. We have introduced different ways of working in the interim to fulfil our statutory duty, which we will continuously review and adjust as required, whilst working closely with the SFRS.
In closing, HMFSI in Scotland forms an integral part of the national Governance arrangements of the Service in that it can identify good practice, highlight areas for improvement and give independent assurance to ministers and the public that the SFRS is fulfilling its statutory duties and improving the safety and well-being of Scotland`s population.
As of April 2021, our current Chief Inspector Simon Routh-Jones will hand over the reins to the new Chief Inspector, Robert Scott QFSM. Robert was previously an Assistant Chief Fire Officer with Scottish Fire & Rescue Service until he retired in 2017.
For more information, go to www.gov.scot/fireinspectorate