Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, met with ScottishPower Energy Networks today (Wednesday 6th August) to discuss the tougher sanctions against metal theft that are proposed as part of new legislation currently going through Parliament. It follows a spate of dangerous thefts recently on the electricity network in Scotland, which has seen brazen criminals dicing with death by cutting down live power lines carrying up to 11,000 volts of electricity.
Mr MacAskill met with Guy Jefferson, Network Operations Director at SP Energy Networks, at the company’s Clydesmill substation in Cambuslang on the outskirts of Glasgow. The 275,000 volt substation is equipped with state-of-the-art security systems, such as an acoustic perimeter detection system, which is linked to CCTV and monitored 24/7. But with over 100,000 km of cables and 30,000 substations across it network areas, the electricity network can be a target for those criminals who are willing to risk their own lives, and the safety of others.
In just over two weeks, a dozen thefts have been reported in mainly rural areas around Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. Overhead power lines have been targeted by criminal gangs, who have taken huge risks with their own safety to cut down lines that carry as much as 11,000 volts of electricity. The thefts have also resulted in localised power cuts, and put nearby homes at risk. A theft from a substation in Greenock last year resulted in two serious house fires and more than 200 properties experiencing an extended power outage, whilst engineers checked each individual property for safety. In 2011, a botched cable theft in Glasgow saw a 30 minute power outage for 50,000 properties in the Southside.
The stolen metal typically ends up being passed through dishonest scrap merchants, on the way to being exported around the world. New proposed legislation will prevent scrap metal dealers paying cash for materials, which will block the criminal gangs from selling their stolen metal.
The new legislation will aid the efforts of Police Scotland and other agencies, who have been targeting the criminal gangs and the small band of dishonest scrap dealers for many years with a variety of specialist operations and investigations.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, said: "Metal theft is simply not a victimless crime. As recent incidents have shown, the actions of a selfish minority create unnecessary cost, danger and disruption for the rest of the community
“That is why the Scottish Government is bringing in tough new legislation to address metal theft, ensuring that all dealers are licensed and eliminating cash payments. We are also introducing better record keeping and identity checks to tackle this widespread problem.
“By reducing the outlets for stolen metal and the lure of ready cash we believe we can remove the incentive to steal.
“With tough legislation and enforcement, and continued work with police, companies like Scottish Power and the majority of reputable metal dealers, we believe we can end this crime.”
Guy Jefferson, Network Operations Director at SP Energy Networks, said: “Metal theft remains one of the biggest threats to the safety of the electricity network, and the impact of these crimes can be devastating. As well as major power cuts that have inconvenienced thousands of families, we have experienced house fires and damaged electrical appliances in homes following haphazard thefts of our cables. One man died recently attempting to steal copper from an electricity pole in Lanarkshire, and others have suffered horrific burns, loss of limbs and scarring. Unfortunately it seems like the thieves don’t care about the risk to their own lives, and they certainly show no regard for the safety of neighbouring properties.
“We continue to increase our own security measures, and work closely with the Police and other industries affected by this crime. But to really crack down on this type of crime, we need to hit the criminals where it hurts. Changing the laws to make it much harder for these gangs to profit from their crimes is a major step in the right direction, and we are supportive of the new legislation proposed by the Justice Secretary. Our key objective is to operate a safe and reliable electricity network, and these new laws will help to stop those selfish criminals who don’t care about the damage they inflict on communities.”
ScottishPower is encouraging anyone who can provide information on the recent spate of thefts to either contact the Police, or to call the company’s 24 hour hotline on 0845 272 7999. The company is willing to pay £5,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the conviction of any of those responsible.
Metal theft statistics
- More than 850 thefts since January 2011.
- Over 70,000 homes exposed to increased risks of faults or potential damage.
- Over 6,000 man-hours spent on repairs and reinforcements.
- 50,000 homes in Glasgow lost power supplies for 30 minutes in November 2011 after an attempted theft.
- 2 serious house fires in Greenock in November 2013 after a theft from a substation. More than 200 homes experienced an extended power outage until safety checks could be completed.
- 50 homes in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, experienced damaged appliances after a theft from a substation in May 2013.
- More than 20 substations were targeted in the Saltcoats area in one weekend alone in June 2013.
- A spate of incidents in Dumfries and Galloway in January 2013 saw live overhead power lines being cut down by hacksaws.
- A fatality of a 43 year old man occurred in July 2013 following an attempted theft from a pole mounted substation in Lanarkshire.
ScottishPower Press Office: 0141 614 4660