A constitutional debate raged on last week about whether or not the lights would be kept on in an Independent Scotland. Meanwhile, here in Inverclyde, the lights literally went out in 280 homes due to the reckless conduct of metal thieves.
The theft also led to four homes catching fire endangering the lives of those who lived in them. To compound the misery the household appliances were ruined and the families were left without heating as the boilers packed in.
Metal theft is clearly not just an issue that affects Inverclyde however. It’s a growing trend throughout Scotland. When I made representations to Scottish Power I was informed that since January 2011 there have been over 800 substation attacks and that over 70,000 homes have been affected. I was also informed that a 43 year old man lost his life in July 2013 following an attempted theft from a pole mounted substation in Lanarkshire.
Given the sheer scale of the problem and its devastating consequences the lack of action from the Scottish Government is surprising. New laws in England which have banned cash payments for metal has already led to a 50% drop in the number of incidences of metal theft in parts of the country. Nevertheless, I welcome the First Minister’s response to my question in parliament on Thursday in which he confirmed that he will push forward a new law to address the problem.
In the meantime, it’s clear we need our Justice System to take tougher and swifter action against metal thieves. We also need Police Scotland, with their considerable expertise in this area, and the energy companies who have a considerable financial resource, to co-ordinate their efforts to reduce and prevent metal theft in Scotland.