Emergency Services Staff

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:18 pm on 4th September 2002.

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Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party 5:18 pm, 4th September 2002

I congratulate Karen Gillon on securing tonight's debate on her important motion. As Karen Gillon stated, we have an opportunity to send out the clear message that we will not tolerate attacks on our emergency service workers. Those workers go out at all times of the night to save people's lives, so it is intolerable that they should come under mindless violent attack during the course of carrying out their job.

Such attacks are becoming all too common. Figures released last year showed that there had been a dramatic rise in the number of assaults on ambulance personnel in Tayside. Throughout 1999, assaults on paramedic staff in Tayside totalled 16. However, in the first six months of 2000, the figure had risen to 22 and continued to rise.

That led to a debate on whether the Scottish Ambulance Service should copy the London Ambulance Service by providing crews with stab-proof and bullet-proof vests. Surely, things have not come to the stage where our emergency service staff must go out equipped with bullet-proof vests. I hope that we do not have to see that day; sadly, it is having to be discussed.

Doctors in Dundee have to have a police escort to make out-of-hours calls because of fears for their safety. Last month, firefighters in Dundee faced a sustained attack by mindless young thugs—some as young as eight years old. That happened when the firefighters were attending a blaze in a scrap yard in the Hilltown area of the city. The blaze had been started deliberately to lure the fire service. If such attacks continue, it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured—as Karen Gillon says, that has already happened—or indeed killed. We must prevent that.

Our emergency services staff have a hazardous enough job without mindless thugs pelting them with stones and bottles. The lives of emergency service workers and members of the public are being put at risk. We need to hear today how the Scottish Executive will ensure the safety of those workers as they go about their crucial jobs.

Yes, education and resources are important, but we must also ensure that the law backs up emergency staff. Mindless thugs must be dealt with. They must face the full weight of the law. Indeed, their parents should perhaps face the full weight of the law. The current situation cannot continue.