The hundreds of hoax calls made to emergency services in the past 12 months have been blasted as “cruel” and “utterly irresponsible”.
Fire chiefs have warned lives are being put at risk across the north and north-east after almost 400 hoax calls were made to crews.
Almost 7% of all calls made to crews in Aberdeen during the 2019/2020 break-down of statistics were fake.
In all, there were 161 instances where crews were mobilised unnecessarily.
Though that represented a decrease on the previous year – down from 185 – the percentage of malicious alerts made to crews in the city tops the tally for Scotland.
Scottish Fire and Rescue chiefs have warned such calls are a criminal offence.
Head of service delivery for the North of Scotland, deputy assistant chief officer Andy Watt, said: “While the service have plans and procedures in place to ensure our communities are protected at all times, every second counts in an emergency and when firefighters have to attend hoax calls there is the chance they could be taken away from incidents where lives are at risk.
“Making a malicious call to the emergency services is a criminal offence and we will always work with our partners in the police to identify those responsible.”
The latest figures also showed 30 hoax calls were recorded in Aberdeenshire, a further 75 in the Highlands and 20 in Moray.
There were nine in the Western Isles and 43 in Argyll and Bute. The highest numbers overall were in Glasgow (399) and Edinburgh (285).
Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Tom Mason said: “These calls are extremely dangerous, irresponsible and absolutely disgraceful.
“Every emergency call is treated as an emergency and hoax calls can take up valuable resources, putting lives at risk.
“Abusing the 999 system could mean emergency resources are dispatched to incidents when in fact they are needed elsewhere.
“It is atrocious that someone would want to do this.
“Fire crews do a fantastic job and it’s vital their work isn’t hampered by this inexcusable behaviour.”
Fire Brigade Union Scotland’s regional secretary Denise Christie warned that “every second counts” when responding and such calls are putting extra strain on workers.
“People’s lives could be put at risk due to hoax fire calls and they can be a major drain on resources,” she said.
“If fire crews are responding to a hoax call, then they are not available to respond to a genuine call for help.
“This could mean that a fire appliance from further away has to be mobilised which may take longer to attend the incident.
“This can become more dangerous if it is a fire where every second counts in responding.”
Meanwhile Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin is calling upon anyone considering picking up the phone to dial 999 in a non-emergency to “think again”.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service provide a vital service to people in the north-east and their work to keep people safe and protect them can be life-saving,” she said.
“Hoax calls are cruel and not only waste time but they the lives of others at risk by diverting emergency services.
“I would encourage anyone who even considers doing this to stop and think again.”