SCOTTISH firefighters have demanded “urgent “ investment in more safety officers in light of the Grenfell tower tragedy, as it emerged yet more posts had been lost from the service.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) told MSPs the number of fire safety officers had fallen by almost a quarter since 2013, and those left found it increasingly difficult to conduct tests.

The warning coincided with the latest quarterly figures on public sector employment in Scotland, which showed a drop of 380 jobs in “police and fire related services” last year.

The 1.4 per cent drop added to a series of falls since the merger of Scotland’s eight regional police and fire services into single services in 2013.

From 30,200 posts at the time of the mergers, there are now 27,700, a drop of 8 per cent.

There were also 1000 fewer councils workers than a year ago, and 190 fewer college staff, but 860 more NHS staff and 210 more civil servants.

Overall, around 544,000 people work in public services, a fifth of Scotland’s workforce.

Holyrood’s local government committee is examining building standards in the wake of the Grenfell blaze, which killed at least 80 people in June after unsafe cladding caught light.

Giving evidence, Denise Christie of the FBU said the number of uniformed fire safety officers in Scotland was down from 89 to 68 since 2013/14.

Officers found it “more and more difficult” to finish safety tests in the time available.

She said: “We've had year-on-year cuts to our organisation and we are finding it very, very difficult to cope. We were promised that the reorganisation from the eight former brigades into the one Scottish Fire and Rescue Service would not impact on the frontline.

“But it absolutely is impacting on the frontline.

“Now we are seeing cuts to our fire safety inspection officers right across the country, and we're hearing from our members that they are finding it very difficult to complete fire safety inspections in the amount of time they have got to do it.

"It's really disappointing and it's really concerning to hear."

Asked if increased investment in fire safety officers was needed as a matter of urgency, she replied: "Absolutely, especially on the back of the Grenfell tower fire. The fire service isn't just about responding to incidents, it's about protection and preventing incidents as well."

Kenny McKenzie of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in Scotland also told MSPs council building standards departments suffered from a "huge lack of investment".

He said cash was needed “across the board” to address "very difficult" recruitment issues.

He also demanded “more teeth” for standards officers to ensure tougher enforcement.

He said: “We have no enforcement teeth at all. It is very poor at the moment."

Witnesses also told the committee about having stricter rules for public landlords, retro-fitting sprinkler systems in older tower blocks, greater awareness on fire prevention measures, and a one-off programme of “intrusive inspections" of high-rise flats to highlight safety issues.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said of the staff cuts: “It’s hypocritical of the SNP to advertise itself as a friend of public sector staff when these reductions are taking place.

“Now the headcount is dropping, the SNP government must provide assurances that the frontline will not suffer as a consequence.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie blamed SNP budget cuts.

She said: “These figures show more than 1,500 fewer employees across local government, our police force, fire service and Scotland's colleges.

"This is the result of an SNP government not interested in using the powers of the Parliament to stop Tory austerity in Scotland.”

After the committee, SNP committee convener Bob Doris, whose Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn seat contains many high rises, said: “We have strong fire safety standards in Scotland but areas for potential improvement are starting to emerge.

“For example, the FBU called for an 'intrusive inspection' of high rises in Scotland to ensure fire safety measures on the ground are up to scratch.

“Above all else, we must ensure those who live, work or study in high-rise buildings across Scotland are safe. Our Committee will continue to scrutinise fire safety in high rise buildings in Scotland to identify whether this needs to be improved. This would provide further assurances that a similar tragedy like Grenfell Tower cannot happen in Scotland.”