Martin Blunden: Fury as Scottish Fire and Rescue crew attacked by Edinburgh youths during emergency call-out in Gracemount
A gang of youths in Edinburgh hurled projectiles at firefighters as they responded to an emergency call-out in a “disgusting” attack.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) team was ambushed as they doused an out of control bonfire in the grounds of Mansion House in Gracemount, just before 9pm on Sunday.
The blindsided firefighters were forced to call in the police for backup as youths descended on them hurling projectiles that damaged their fire engine.
No injuries or arrests were reported, but officers later confirmed that a hunt for those responsible had been mounted, and warned that patrols in the area had been stepped up.
As news of the attack emerged, officials voiced their fury.
Martin Blunden, Chief Officer of the SFRS, said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the episode.
“We exist to serve the public and no one has the right to abuse or attack any public service worker,” he raged.
“I am delighted that none of the firefighters were physically injured, although the shock of being verbally and physically attacked will certainly stay with them for some time.”
He added: “Sadly it is something that it far too regular for all public sector workers.”
Lesley Macinnes, Liberton Gilmerton Councillor and depute leader of the SNP group, told the Evening News: “I am very concerned to hear that emergency service workers were abused in this shameful manner while they were protecting the community.
"I am also really pleased to hear that police are actively following this up and I hope that this will result in the people responsible for this abuse are found quickly.”
The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 makes it an offence to assault, obstruct or hinder an emergency worker whilst they are providing, responding to or carrying out emergency services.
Doing so carries a penalty of up to 12 months in prison, a £10,000 fine - or both - and the covers GPs and doctors, nurses and midwives working in the community in addition to cops, paramedics and firefighters.
Despite that, attacks against emergency workers made up 13 per cent of all assaults recorded in Scotland in 2019/2020, with an average of 20 incidents every day.
According to the latest crime stats, Scottish emergency workers reported 7,519 assaults to police in 2019/2020 - up from 6,456 a decade ago - though the true figure is likely to be higher as more serious attacks are recorded differently.
Responding to the latest attack, a police spokesperson said: “We were called around 9pm on Sunday, September 26, to a report of anti-social behaviour involving youths and a crew from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the Gracemount House Drive area of Edinburgh.
“Fortunately no one was injured but this kind of behaviour towards emergency services doing their job will not be tolerated.
“Enquires are ongoing to trace those responsible and officers on regular patrols will be in the area.”
An SFRS spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 8.50pm on Sunday, September 26 to reports of a bonfire at Mansion House, Gracemount House Drive, Edinburgh.
“Operations Control mobilised one appliance and firefighters extinguished a fire in the open.
“Crews requested the assistance of their police partners after encountering antisocial behaviour.
“There were no firefighter injuries and the fire appliance suffered damage due to being hit by objects.”