Ambulance crews across the north have experienced dozens of “reprehensible” assaults since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures have revealed.
A total of 32 Scottish Ambulance Service employees were subjected to physical and verbal attacks while at work across Grampian and the Highlands and Islands between March 2020 and February this year.
The statistics, which were obtained under Freedom of Information powers, revealed that in total there were more than 250 assaults on crews across Scotland over the 12-month period.
July and August saw the rate of attacks rise to more than one per day nationwide.
Scottish Conservative candidate Liam Kerr, who will contest Aberdeen South and North Kincardine at next month’s Holyrood election and is the party’s justice spokesman, branded the incidents “reprehensible”.
Mr Kerr called for tougher action on those found guilty of assaulting emergency workers.
“It is never acceptable to impede or challenge emergency services personnel trying to do their jobs,” he said.
“During a global health crisis it’s reprehensible.
“Our paramedics do a terrific job in normal times, but the pressure has ramped up during the pandemic.
“Under the SNP’s soft-touch approach to justice, fewer criminals are going to jail because the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker is 12 months – and there is a presumption against sentences of this length.
“With our policy of doubling the maximum sentences for these kinds of attacks, the Scottish Conservatives would start to stamp out these crimes.”
Attacks on ambulance crews have been a problem for the service in recent years, with more than 200 recorded between 2013 and 2019.
The high point came in 2017 when 39 assaults took place.
An SNP spokesman said: “Attacks on paramedics and first responders are abhorrent. Emergency workers should be treated with the respect they deserve as they go out every day and risk their lives to help others.
“The Tories’ claims about our justice policies do not stand up to scrutiny. Since 2008 crime has halved under the SNP, and – despite Tory cuts to the Scottish Government’s core budget – we have maintained the police budget for 2021/22. Police numbers are also higher than when we took office in 2007, at the same time as officer numbers have been slashed by the Tories in England.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Assaults on emergency workers are totally unacceptable.
“Our staff work incredibly hard, helping people in need and keeping them safe. They should not ever have to fear for their safety.
“They all do a fantastic job each and every day.”