Attacks on Scots emergency fire crews soar 36% in a year

Attacks on fire crew have soared in the past year. Picture: John Devlin
Attacks on fire crew have soared in the past year. Picture: John Devlin
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Attacks on firefighters responding to emergency call-outs have reached a four-year high in four regions of Scotland, official figures show.

Glasgow was the most dangerous city with 23 attacks in the past 12 months, followed by Edinburgh with eight.

Incidents in West Lothian and East Dunbartonshire were also at their highest since 2015/16, with five and four respectively.

The total number of attacks across Scotland – including objects being thrown, physical abuse and other acts of aggression aimed at crews – rose by a third (36 per cent) in 2018/19, with 72 reported.

Firefighters were injured in two cases.

Assistant Chief Officer John Dickie, director of response and resilience for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), condemned all violence against firefighters.

“Attacks on emergency responders are completely unacceptable and I am sure the public would be outraged by incidents where emergency service workers have been targeted while working to protect people and property,” he said.

“For us, this type of behaviour not only prevents our crews from bringing any emergency to a safe and swift conclusion but can also impact on our emergency service colleagues who may have to support us. This cannot be condoned.

“We will work to identify those responsible and we will pass that intelligence to our police partners, which can result in a variety of consequences.”

Firefighters said hostile actions often intensify around Bonfire Night, the force’s busiest day of the year.

SFRS handled 723 calls from members of the public on 5 November last year, with several teams coming under threat as they responded to incidents.

Some crews were targeted by missiles and fireworks in the course of their duties.

Under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005, anyone found guilty of attacking staff undertaking emergency responses can face fines of up to £10,000 and a year’s imprisonment.

The number of attacks on Scottish fire crews has fallen since the law was brought in.

However, the introduction of similar penalties across the rest of the UK is yet to cut the number of assaults being directed at fire teams.

Figures obtained from 49 of the UK’s 50 fire services show there were more than 900 attacks on crews in 2018/19 – roughly the same number as the previous year. At least nine firefighters were injured. In Northern Ireland attacks hit a five-year low of 93.

The Scottish Government said: “All attacks against our emergency services, including our fire and rescue service officers, are despicable and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms. There will be a zero tolerance approach to attacks on our firefighters.”