Senior firefighters are managing major incidents in Grampian from more than 60 miles away, it has emerged.
Holyrood yesterday heard that senior fire officers will be deployed to Dundee, rather than gather in Aberdeen.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald called for centralisation of the service to end and said it was “absurd” that potentially serious incidents at the St Fergus gas terminal, Royal Deeside or the oil capital would be managed from so far away.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) confirmed the arrangement in response to a freedom of information request.
The organisation said that during complex incidents principal fire officers would deploy to a location agreed with other emergency services.
But when it was “determined that fire requires a higher level of incident command then a gold commander will deploy to one of the SFRS Incident Support Rooms (ISR) to provide oversight and support for on scene operations.
Their response adds: “These ISRs are located in Dundee, Johnston and Edinburgh and provide national coverage as appropriate.”
Gold commanders are drawn from principal officers and are regarded as the most senior firefighters, who set the tactical priorities during an emergency.
Raising the issue at Holyrood yesterday, Mr Macdonald called for centralisation of the fire service “to be brought to an end”.
Afterwards he added: “It is unacceptable that when major incidents occur in Aberdeen and the north-east, the most senior fire officers are expected to direct operations from the incident support room, which is in Dundee. It seems that Scotland ends at Dundee as far as the SFRS is concerned.
“SNP ministers are ultimately responsible for how the SFRS operates, and they must make sure that it works for the whole of Scotland, not just the Central Belt.”
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said it was “imperative” to have the right level of leadership for large scale incidents in place at the right time.
She added: “SFRS are constantly reviewing and planning the resource that’s required for the delivery of front line services. Gold command officers have been mobilised approximately 14 times over the past two years and I would like to reassure the member there has never been a single occasion where SFRS have not responded with their required resources.”
David McGown, Deputy Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “The creation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has enabled us to draw upon our fullest possible resources where required to protect communities across the whole of Scotland, and we have done so.
“Our Gold Commanders are central to the nationally agreed incident command system, and these Gold Commanders operate on a continuous duty system which identifies one officer to be available at all times for immediate response, with the remaining officers required to respond within set time frames to ensure SFRS gold command resilience.
“To confirm, Gold Commanders will respond to large scale incidents at the scene regardless of where in Scotland they occur.
“Additional strategic incident commanders can also provide strategic incident command support from three tactical locations based at Dundee as well as Johnstone and Edinburgh. This allows them to coordinate national resources while supporting incident commanders at the scene to ensure we respond as quickly and effectively as possible to incidents.
“This supports the principles of integrated emergency planning adopted by other emergency responders in Scotland.”
He added: “The safety of our communities and our firefighters remains a priority and our Gold Command resilience is maintained through continuous training to ensure effective leadership at operational incidents.”