Emergency Services Staff

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:51 pm on 4th September 2002.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 5:51 pm, 4th September 2002

I apologise to Karen Gillon for not signing her motion. That is not because I do not fully agree with the motion; it is because I pressed the wrong button on my computer. It is probably just as well that I do not work in the emergency services.

I am sorry that Paul Martin has left. I did not want to intervene during his speech, but I cannot let some of his remarks pass. Criminal behaviour is criminal behaviour and it is up to the police to deal with it. It is not up to housing officers or voluntary members of management committees to deal with such behaviour and we should never change that.

In general, I agree with what members have said, but I add that we cannot over-emphasise the importance of our emergency services. Margo MacDonald is absolutely right. The issue concerns attitude change. There should be respect towards those who work in our emergency services and attitude change should be promoted through every layer of society. Respect must start from the top. It must start from the Government and those who are in power in countries that employ emergency services.

The worth of workers in emergency services must be reflected in working conditions. Such conditions include pay—Margo MacDonald and Angus MacKay have spoken about that—but they also include the health and safety of workers and the conditions under which they work. We should ensure that they have up-to-date equipment with which to work. Some firefighters have said that the uniforms and equipment that they use are not as state of the art and up to date as they should be. We should consider resources.

I want to discuss the ambulance service in the area that Karen Gillon and I represent. Through parliamentary questions that have been lodged, she will know about the state of the ambulance service in Lanarkshire. In East Kilbride, almost half of the shifts are not covered and single crews go out to emergency calls. What kind of working conditions are those, given that there are attacks on emergency staff? Single ambulance men are sent out to deal with emergency calls. We must deal with that issue. For the Executive to say that that is the Scottish Ambulance Service's problem is not good enough.

We must respect our fire, ambulance and police emergency services. Society must be shown that they are respected through Governments' taking some responsibility. I hope that the minister will deal with that in winding-up.