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More proposals for tackling metal theft in Scotland have been published by the Scottish Government. The SNP government seeks views on introducing what the Nationalists term a tougher licensing regime and banning cash payments for metal, as in England.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was joined by police officers from Police Scotland and the British Transport Police to unveil the consultation as he visited St Mary’s RC Cathedral in Edinburgh. St Mary’s has been targeted by thieves stealing lead from its roof, which has done damage to the building and distress to those connected to the church.
After an initial consultation last year, this further consultation focuses on what conditions dealers should be subject to under a new licensing regime with all dealers licensed, and the question of cash payments for metal.
Mr MacAskill said: “St Mary’s Cathedral is a wonderful building and a place of worship which, for many years, has brought great comfort to members of Edinburgh’s catholic community and beyond. But sadly, as I have seen today, it is not immune to the problem of metal theft.
“The police are doing what they can to bring those responsible for crimes such as this to justice and they will continue to have my full support. But we know more can be done and we will take tough steps through legislation. With the cost to the UK economy being put as high as £770 million, the status quo is untenable. This is plaguing communities across Scotland and it must be stopped.
“We already know from the responses to our first consultation that there is support for proper regulation and licensing. This consultation today takes a closer look at what form licensing would take.
“It is essential that any changes to the regulation of the scrap metal industry protect both the public interest and the interests of that industry.”
Supt Matt Richards, from Police Scotland, said: “Metal theft is a crime that impacts on all of our communities, and is an issue that Police Scotland treat extremely seriously.
“In addition to causing severe damage to buildings and infrastructure, metal theft also carries a financial penalty for those businesses and organisations that have been affected by it.
“There is an established link between metal theft and serious and organised criminality, and Police Scotland work closely with partners to prevent criminal groups profiting from this illicit trade.
“We will take firm action against anyone who we identify as being involved in stealing metal, who can expect to be dealt with to the full extent of the law.
“Anyone seeking advice on how to guard against metal theft can make contact with their local crime prevention officer, or visit the Metal Theft Scotland website – visit https://www.metaltheftscotland.org.uk.
The Scottish Government will collate responses, before bringing legislation forward to the Scottish Parliament for scrutiny.
A recent study conducted by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has estimated the value of metal theft in Scotland at £7.5m for 2011 and a further £2.8m for the first half of 2012. Indirect costs resulting from inconvenience to the public and loss of public utilities and services means the total cost is far higher, the Scottish Government adds.