AN AVERAGE of 17 emergency workers are attacked every day in Scotland, new figures have revealed.
were 6,499 assaults on people working for the police, ambulance and fire services in 2012-13, according to figures.
The Scottish Government is now facing calls for a crackdown on people who commit acts of violence against emergency workers, amid claims that legislation has failed.
The highest number of incidents occurred in the former Strathclyde force area (3,949), followed by Lothian and Borders (803) and Grampian (454).
The lowest number of attacks took place in Dumfries and Galloway, with 107 assaults, the statistics from Police Scotland, obtained via Freedom of Information law, confirmed.
Earlier this year, it emerged there were 600 homes in Scotland blacklisted by ambulance bosses, meaning paramedics could not attend without the attendance of police due to previous flashpoints.
But unions warned the issue is not just restricted to “blue light” workers with a growing number of frontline public sector staff facing violence in the course of their jobs.
Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “This is a disgraceful reflection on our society, and shows just what those working for the emergency services are up against on a daily, if not hourly, basis. These figures are worryingly high, and give an indication of the challenges and dangers staff face on a regular basis. Given the frequency of these despicable assaults, it is clear we have to take stronger measures to defend our emergency employees.”
New laws introduced in 2005 to provide increased protection for emergency workers, including nine-month jail terms and £5,000 fines, have “failed”, Ms Mitchell added.
“It would have been better focusing on those guilty of aggravated assault on an emergency worker and making sure the punishments dished out were enough to deter future incidents,” she said.
Health union Unison compiles an annual study of attacks on all public sector staff, and Scottish organiser Dave Watson said yesterday there had been a “steady increase” in recent years.
He added: “A lot of the pressure and violence towards public service workers comes as a result of cuts in services, particularly if you are in a housing department facing tenants who are suffering from the bedroom tax and we’ve already had a number of incidents.
“I know the same applies to colleagues in the civil services. When people are refused services they’re due to get or see their benefits cut, then the reaction – wrong though it is – is to hit out at frontline staff who are implementing government policies.”
The union has been pressing for stronger legislation to cover all frontline workers who deal with the public, but a members’ bill by Labour’s Hugh Henry aimed at securing this failed to win support at Holyrood.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable that those protecting the public should be assaulted and that is why we support prosecutors and our courts in using the full force of the law against anyone found guilty of offences.
“This includes the long-standing common law assault offence which carries penalties all the way up to life imprisonment.”