VIOLENCE and intimidation against NHS and local government workers has doubled over the past decade and is continuing to climb.

Attacks on frontline staff including teachers, doctors, nurses, parking attendants and social workers rose by more than 18 per cent year-on-year to 41,176 in 2016/17, compared to just over 20,000 in 2006. Trade union Unison, who compiled the data from freedom of information requests, said tougher action was needed to "end the epidemic".

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Glasgow, the largest council by population, recorded a "very substantial" 34 per cent increase in incidents year-on-year, to 3925. The majority - 1,928 - were physical assaults, but the statistics also include verbal abuse and threatening behaviour.

In Dundee, the statistics of 694 violent attacks on staff included one "animal attack" and 44 cases of "brandishing a weapon".

In Fife, violent incidents doubled year-on-year to 1,267. Of these, 264 were attacks of schoolteachers, 14 on parking attendants, and 90 on maintenance staff such as plumbers, cleaners and roadworkers.

Edinburgh - Scotland's second largest council - reported 1,808 incidents, up 27 per cent on the previous year.

In North Lanarkshire, incidents rose to a new peak of 912 while South Lanarkshire - which has previously recorded substantially fewer problems of violence and abuse against staff than its neighbour - saw incidents creep up to 802 from a previous high of 504. Neither local authority has changed how it collects the data.

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The Unison report said that while there is evidence that some of the increases are "partly due to improved awareness and reporting amongst workers and employers", this does not fully explain the trend. It added: "There are still public sector employers for which low figures and poor information on the issue suggests we still face a good deal of under-reporting."

Unison said it was "disappointing" that the Scottish Fire and Rescue has failed to respond to the survey in the past three years, meaning there is no data on attacks on firefighters.

Police Scotland - having failed to respond to the previous two surveys - provided a figure for assaults on police officers, but "not a full report covering all employees including support staff", said Unison.

Police Scotland had said this would be "too costly to prepare", despite having previously having done so. The number of "injuries due to assault" sustained by police officers was 922.

Scott Donohoe, Unison health and safety committee chair, said: "Whether reported or not, every assault on a worker serving the public is an assault too many.

"If we do not have accurate and reliable systems for reporting all violence against public-sector workers, truly effective measures to overcome and eliminate the problem will be impossible to achieve."

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In the health service, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - the largest health board - reported a 37 per cent increase year on year, but the health board said this was due to "an overall increase in reporting of these types of incidents, rather than an increase in the number of assaults that are occurring."

Unison said that while it still welcomed the introduction of the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act in 2005, "the narrow focus on 'blue light' workers provides protection to predominantly male groups of workers, rather than nurses, care workers and classroom assistants, who are mainly female". The union said this was an "equal opportunities issue" and said it would support further attempts by MSPs to extend the legislation to cover other public sector staff.

In 2009, a Bill by MSP Hugh Henry to would have widened the scope for prosecutions but this was opposed by the Scottish Government.

In 2017, there were 272 prosecutions under the Act and 260 convictions.