How much violence should public sector staff have to put up with in going about their daily duties?
The answer is surely none. But that's not the reality, according to the survey of councils and health boards published by the public sector union Unison last week.
Although it showed a fall overall in total assaults on staff - with 33,689 reported this year, a drop of 1055 on 2012 - Unison points out that this is due to a 3074 reduction in attacks on police officers and staff. Strip out the figures from the new Police Scotland authority and we are looking at a rise, both in local government and health.
Unison says that, because police numbers have been protected from cuts, the rise in other sectors may be due to budget reductions and staff shortages. Their argument is that, when cutbacks to benefits and services are putting pressure on members of the public, a minority may react with anger and violence. Meanwhile thinly stretched staff teams are more vulnerable to attacks when they come.
That interpretation may be flawed according to councils, with insiders at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) pointing out that health services have also been protected in staffing terms. Yet Unison's figures show an increase of 1744 assaults on health service staff, from 10,974 in 2012 to 12,618 this year.
So the word from councils is that it is a big leap of faith on the part of the union to tie violence to the impact of austerity budgets.
That doesn't mean local authorities are complacent. Only recently Cosla workforce spokesman Billy Hendry described verbal or physical abuse against council staff as outrageous and completely unacceptable.
There are some difficult issues here, though. Care and education workers can sometimes face violence which is beyond the control of the culprit. Examples would be the adult with severe autism whose condition causes aggression, the dementia sufferer who lashes out physically or verbally, or the troubled teenager in care who is liable to assault staff. Unison accuses employers of an attitude that says such treatment goes with the territory for certain workers.
Councils and health boards reject this interpretation. There are conditions with symptoms that can hold dangers for staff but the answer, employers say, is to provide adequate training for those who may have to deal with such cases.
The rise in assaults that Unison has identified may be down to better reporting, particularly in health where computer systems make it easier to do so.
The union feels cuts may also be responsible. Housing staff, in the frontline for issues such as the bedroom tax, might be a bellwether and officials are watching closely while councils hope a no-evictions line will help protect staff.
Unison is calling once again for all public sector workers to be given the specific legal protections "blue light" workers got in the Emergency Workers Act of 2005. They argue there is an equality issue here, because the workforces protected by that law are predominantly male, while staff such as nurses, care workers and classroom assistants are mostly female and do not benefit from the same laws.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.