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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 15:58 GMT
New laws 'should protect nurses'
Unions say nurses should be covered by the new laws
Proposals to crack down on attacks on emergency workers in Scotland must go further, according to nursing unions.

The Scottish Executive has launched a consultation process on new laws which would bring in tougher sentences.

The legislation would give paramedics and coastguards the same level of protection as police officers.

However, the Royal College of Nursing Scotland (RCNS) argued that it would be "ludicrous" if nurses were not covered by the proposals.

Director James Kennedy said the union would be lobbying MSPs.

"Nurses are more likely to be assaulted in the course of their work than any other group of public service workers," he said.

While this new legislation is a step in the right direction and is good news for emergency workers, I am concerned that it does not go far enough
Shona Robison
SNP spokeswoman
"It will be ludicrous if they are not covered by this new legislation and I have no doubt that nurses in Scotland will feel very badly let down by the executive if this opportunity is missed.

"All public service workers deserve the same legal protection regardless of where they work."

Jane McCready, chairwoman of RCN Scotland, said: "Increasing the penalties faced by those acting violently towards nurses and other health staff would be an important move in developing a culture of zero tolerance.

"The minister says he values the dedication of emergency workers, so why distinguish between different staff and situations?"

The call was backed by Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Shona Robison.

Hoax calls

She said: "While this new legislation is a step in the right direction and is good news for emergency workers, I am concerned that it does not go far enough."

The Scottish Executive's proposals were unveiled by Public Services Minister Andy Kerr.

The new legislation - which would also apply to hoax calls - would make it an offence to assault or obstruct emergency workers.

Andy Kerr
Our message is clear: attacks on emergency workers will not be tolerated
Andy Kerr
Public Services Minister
It would also give paramedics and coastguard staff - as well as anyone assisting them - the same legal protection as police officers.

Those convicted under the Police (Scotland) Act can be jailed for nine months and fined up to 5,000.

A new provision extending the protection for firefighters is due to be included in the Fire Services Bill to be introduced to parliament next year.

Mr Kerr said: "Attacks on emergency workers are completely unacceptable. People working in emergency situations need to be able to go about their work without fear.

"The dedication of emergency workers saves countless lives in Scotland every year. Attacks on staff are putting those lives at risk.

Better training

"That is why the executive is committed to bringing forward legislation to protect emergency workers while they do their jobs.

"Our message is clear: attacks on emergency workers will not be tolerated."

The executive plans to introduce measures to help protect other public sector workers, including more CCTV, better training and awareness campaigns.

Scottish TUC general secretary Bill Speirs said: "We warmly welcome the executive's commitment to tackle this issue, both through legislation and a wider package of measures designed to prevent attacks on those who serve the public."

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