City scrap metal dealers hail crackdown on thieves

From left, Supt Matt Richards, Rev Jeremy Milne, Chief Supt Ellie Bird from British Transport Police and Kenny MacAskill outside St Mary's Cathedral. Picture: Greg Macvean

From left, Supt Matt Richards, Rev Jeremy Milne, Chief Supt Ellie Bird from British Transport Police and Kenny MacAskill outside St Mary's Cathedral. Picture: Greg Macvean

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SCRAP metal dealers today welcomed proposed tough new licensing measures to crack down on thieves “plaguing” the city and force illegal traders out of business.

The Scottish Government wants to ban cash payments for metal and expand its licensing regime to cut the crime which costs Scotland £12 million a year.

Michael Watson, who has run Watson Scrap Metal for 11 years, said the proposed measures would improve conditions for legitimate firms.

He said: “At the moment scrap yards with licences can be inspected at any time, whereas they need a warrant for the unlicensed ones. It’s the wrong way around.

“This would change that and put some of the ones operating illegally out of business.”

The new measures were unveiled by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill at St Mary’s RC Cathedral, which has been targeted nine times in the past three years.

He joined Police Scotland officers and the British Transport Police to launch the consultation.

“We have to recognise as a community that this is not people dabbling in a bit of metal, a lot of it is sold by serious, organised criminals,” said Mr MacAskill.

“It is a significant problem. We have seen a sacrilegious attack, not just once, but nine times here at St Mary’s. It is totally unacceptable.”

Reverend Jeremy Milne, who even caught two thieves in the act, said the incidents had disrupted services and cost the church a lot of money.

He said: “It’s very wearing. When I get a phone call in the middle of the night from police I think ‘here we go again’.

“The total cost of repairs has been over £40,000.”

Last month, hundreds of children were forced to attend other schools after thieves made off with the central heating system at Croftmalloch Primary in Whitburn, West Lothian.

In August 2011, Edinburgh City Council revealed scrap metal thefts had caused £150,000 worth of damage in a matter of weeks.

Superintendent Matt Richards, of Police Scotland, said: “It has a devastating impact on communities and it is something we take very seriously.

“Hopefully any change in the legislation will provide us with more tactical options to prevent criminal groups profiting from this illicit trade.”