Emergency Services Staff

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:35 pm on 4th September 2002.

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Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour 5:35 pm, 4th September 2002

I, too, congratulate Karen Gillon on securing this members' business debate. She is right to say that the problem touches every community in Scotland. However, although the recent attacks in Blackhill in my constituency were well publicised, such attacks are under-reported. In areas such as Ruchazie, Springburn and Barmulloch throughout my constituency, there have been a countless number of attacks on emergency crews.

Margaret Smith made a number of comments that I want to echo. She pointed out that we are not just talking about emergency crews. As Bill Aitken said, housing staff are attacked daily as they try to find ways of improving local communities. We have to ensure that staff feel secure from attack and that we introduce legislation to deal with the matter. I support Margaret Smith's point that, given that an assault on a police officer is subject to the Police (Scotland) Act 1967, there is no reason why that legislation cannot be extended to cover anyone who provides a public service. The Scottish Parliament was created to consider Scottish solutions to such matters and the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill might provide us with the opportunity to find out whether we can introduce legislation to deal with the problem.

We should also examine whether the tenancy agreements that are in place in many communities such as Blackhill could be used to enforce action against those who perpetrate attacks. Anyone who wants to live in and be part of a community should contribute to that community. By their actions, some of the young people involved in the attacks are simply saying that they do not want to be part of a community. Introducing proposals to take action under the terms of tenancy agreements will send out a clear message that such attacks will not be tolerated. We must introduce measures to allow housing associations to take action in that respect.

Members have referred to the crucial issue of education. It is clear that attacks on emergency crews, council services staff and people who provide valuable public services do not impact positively on local communities. Shock tactics have often been used in educating young people and we must find innovative ways of informing and educating young people to ensure that they are aware of the consequences of their actions.

I hope that the minister will tell us about any possible proposals for legislation to deal with attacks on members of staff who deliver public services. I wonder whether he will also indicate his support for housing associations that might consider taking action against those have clearly demonstrated that they do not want to be part of our community. We need to consider every course of action that we can take.