Dumbarton's MSP has urged the Scottish Government to stop the budget cuts threatening the future of a life-saving rescue boat service on Loch Lomond and beyond.

Dame Jackie Baillie described the Fire Service rescue boat as 'crucial' in saving people on Loch Lomond and the River Leven, and warned lives will be at risk if the service is lost due to lack of finance.

The deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party spoke about the tragedy of drownings in both local inland bodies of water in recent years during a debate at the Scottish Parliament following Drowning Prevention Week.

She paid tribute to the family of Ava Gray, who sadly drowned in the River Leven in 2020.

During her speech, Ms Baillie also praised volunteers from Loch Lomond Rescue Boat, who work tirelessly to assist people who get into difficulty on the loch.

However, the MSP told how budget cuts to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), including to the Water Rescue Boat at Polmadie, are putting more lives in danger with action urgently needing to be taken.

Jackie Baillie said: “The tragic deaths which have happened in local waterways in recent years have caused unthinkable heartache for the families involved and have been devastating for the local communities around Loch Lomond and the Leven.

“I commend, in particular, Ava Gray’s mum and aunt for forcing action to make lifesaving equipment more accessible and to improve signage.

"I have no doubt that this will already have made a difference as does the immense contribution from the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat volunteers but the loch is 39 kilometres long and requires resources which are proportionate to such a vast expanse of water.

“There is much more that can be done and the threat to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service rescue boat at Polmadie which also covers Loch Lomond is a disastrous prospect. This cannot possibly go ahead.

"The Scottish Government needs to ensure that the Fire Service is properly resourced and teams that are responsible for saving lives are not ripped apart because of budget cuts.”

However, the SFRS rejected Ms Baillie's claims about any potential removal of the life-saving service housed at Polmadie, instead insisting there is a change in the boats are manned to bring it in line with the rest of Scotland.

Assistant Chief Officer David Farries at SFRS said: “From September, we will change our crewing model at Polmadie Community Fire Station to a dual-crewed approach for water rescue.

“This will allow staff to also respond to other incidents and brings Polmadie into line with other Swift Water Rescue stations across Scotland, augmented by crews at Knightswood Community Fire Station and our national network of specialist resources.

“SFRS is not removing any resources from the Clyde or from those stations supporting Swift Water Rescues across Scotland and are maintaining three fully trained crews who can be deployed.

“Water rescue is a multi-agency responsibility and we will still maintain a 24/7 emergency response provision.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Firefighters play a vital role in protecting our communities and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has continued to deliver the high standard of services required to keep Scotland safe.

"We are providing £368.1 million - an increase of £14.4 million in budget for SFRS this year.

"Operational decisions on the allocation of resources are a matter for the SFRS board and chief officer.

"In common with all public bodies it is right that SFRS continues to review its operations to ensure it is effective and delivering value for taxpayers money."