By Naomi Mills
THIEVES of metal and cable in Scotland are the central focus of a meeting taking place today.
SNP MSP Stuart McMillan has brought together British Transport Police, Network Rail and Scottish Power for a meeting to address the problem.
The need to tackle this problem has arisen with reports last month warning the thefts could prove to be potentially fatal, with coastguard communications stolen, 999 phone systems disconnected and other emergency services disrupted.
Rail and utility companies have also fallen victim to metal theft along with churches and monuments.
The prominence of the problem came to light whenGlasgowexperienced a blackout as a result of cable theft in November.
Mr McMillan said: “With police warning it is only a matter of time before someone is killed as a result of organised gangs stealing copper, it is vital a change in the law is made and it is made soon. Bringing in partner organisations this will enable us to face the issue head-on.
“I am pleased the Scottish Government is committed to tackling this problem and welcome consultation and the acknowledgement from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill that metal theft is a serious issue that will be addressed.
“With emergency services particularly vital at this time of year, it is essential we let metal thieves know their actions are not acceptable and can have a damaging effect on people’s lives.
“I hope this action from the Scottish Government will curb the disgraceful increase in metal thefts.
“Tightening of these laws will bring nearly all metal dealers into the scope of licensing by dramatically increasing the level of turnover required for exemptions.
“The current legislation has clearly not deterred thefts so something must be done to get a solution that targets this crime.”