The Scottish Conservatives have hit out at “reckless” hoax callers after figures showed more than 1,300 have been made in the past five years.

Statistics released to the party using freedom of information legislation reveal 1,368 malicious calls were made to the Scottish Ambulance Service between 2019 and 2023.

The service said crews attended 1,136 such call-outs.

Tory MSP Maurice Golden said: “The number of hoax calls being received by our overstretched ambulance crews is appalling.

“Over 300 have already been recorded this year alone, in what is clearly a deeply concerning trend.

“This is the last thing ambulance staff need to be dealing with at a time when the SNP have failed to give them the resources they need to attend genuine emergencies in a timely manner.

“While pranksters may think these calls are a joke, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is they are putting lives at risk with their reckless behaviour.

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“These selfish individuals should be severely punished when they are caught. They have diverted resources – which are already scarce thanks to the SNP’s lack of action – away from real incidents.

“That could be the difference between life and death for some if crucial time is wasted on travelling to respond to incidents that turn out to be a total hoax.”

The Herald:

Health Secretary Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government “strongly condemns” hoax calls, adding: “These are not victimless pranks and they can potentially distract and divert vital resources and attention away from those who are in life-threatening situations.

“The Emergency Workers Act enables penalties of up to 12 months imprisonment, a £10,000 fine, or both, to be imposed following conviction for offences against ambulance staff.

“We continue to invest in supporting the Scottish Ambulance Service staff and patients, including a record number of additional staff since 2020, with a further 317 to be recruited by April.”

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A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is putting lives at risk by diverting ambulances that are needed to respond to life-threatening incidents.

“Even with the additional Scottish Ambulance Service staff recruited following investment by the Scottish Government, hoax calls take time to deal with, which is why we work with the police to report malicious or nuisance callers.

“We encourage the public to help us as hoax calls are no joke.”