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EDITIONS
Monday, 25 November, 2002, 19:59 GMT
Minister condemns fire crew attacks
Derelict houses in Pilton, Edinburgh
Crews were called to one address three times
Attacks on crews responding to emergency call-outs during the firefighters' strike have been condemned by the armed forces minister.

Adam Ingram said the actions of vandals who targeted military personnel were "intolerable".

He was speaking on the day it emerged that petrol bombs were thrown at police officers escorting Green Goddess fire engines to a blaze which was started deliberately in Edinburgh.

Firefighters training
The strike is now in its fourth day
The military crews were called out to the same address in the Pilton area of the capital three times, after fires were started in an unoccupied block of flats.

Police officers who were providing back-up for the military crews had petrol bombs thrown at their vehicles.

Lothian and Borders Police said two people have been questioned in connection with the incidents.

Speaking on a visit to a temporary fire station in Glasgow on Monday, Mr Ingram condemned any attacks by vandals on those carrying out firefighting duties.

"Anything that happens, whether it is to armed forces personnel or indeed to fire crews who are carrying out their duties, that type of vandalism and that type of threat to their lives is just intolerable and unacceptable," he said.

Breathing equipment

Military chiefs, based at the emergency command centre in Stirling, have expressed satisfaction with the way Army, Navy and Royal Air Force crews have handled the crisis.

The armed forces have not faced any major incidents in Scotland during the first four days of the strike, and there has been no loss of life in fires.

A Red Goddess was called out in the Highlands to rescue an elderly man from his home in Dingwall at about 1330 GMT on Monday.

Army crews using breathing equipment carried the unconscious man from the house. He was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment.


A settlement has to be just and fair for everyone, from the tax payer through to those who employ the firefighters

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
Elsewhere, three children aged 14 , 12 and 10 have been charged with starting a malicious fire in Dundee's Morgan Street on Sunday night.

A report on the trio will be submitted to the children's panel.

The efforts of the military crews have received the backing of Mr Adam Ingram, who said they were coping "tremendously well against all the odds".

He said morale was "very high" amongst the armed forces who were fulfilling firefighters' duties.

Mr Ingram also urged firefighters to return to the negotiating table.

Interest rates

"That's the only way this can be resolved," he said.

"A settlement has to be just and fair for everyone, from the tax payer through to those who employ the firefighters."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a televised statement that a pay claim of 40% would undermine the economy and the cost would be a 30% increase in income tax, higher mortgage and interest rates and unemployment.


Now is the time that public sector workers should be paid the proper rate for what they are doing

Glasgow firefighter
But firefighters in Glasgow said his statement merely served to strengthen their resolve.

One told BBC Scotland: "Public sector pay is probably the lowest ever, anywhere at any one time.

"Now is the time that public sector workers should be paid the proper rate for what they are doing."

Another said: "I am absolutely disgusted with him (Tony Blair). For a socialist government to turn round and say there is nothing in the pot for a group of workers who have been underpaid for about the last eight years."

New sanctions

Meanwhile, the number of hoax calls made to the military and retained crews providing emergency cover fell on the fourth day of the eight-day strike.

Only six of the 83 emergency calls made during the first 12 hours of Monday were hoaxes.

The Scottish Executive has already outlined measures to crack down on hoaxers during the fire strike.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace said the new sanctions would include disconnecting the telephones of culprits.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Alan Mackay reports
"Angry Army commanders said the mindless actions of malicious fire raisers were risking lives"
BBC Scotland's Alexandra Mackenzie reports
"Resentment is brewing"

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25 Nov 02 | Scotland
24 Nov 02 | Scotland
23 Nov 02 | Scotland
23 Nov 02 | Scotland
23 Nov 02 | Scotland
22 Nov 02 | Scotland
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