Scotland’s Government is consulting on a crackdown on rogue scrap metal dealers.
This would involve restrictions similar to those in England and Wales, including a ban on paying cash for metals, requirements for sellers to show identification and possibly CCTV at premises.
A study by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland has estimated the value of metal theft at £7.5m for 2011 and £2.8m for the first half of 2012. Indirect costs from loss of public utilities and services drive total costs far higher.
Police superintendent Matt Richards said: “There is an established link between metal theft and serious and organised criminality.”
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill launched the consultation with Supt Richards at Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which has suffered thefts of lead from its roof.
MacAskill said: “The police are doing what they can to bring those responsible for crimes such as this to justice. But we know more can be done and we will take tough steps through legislation…the status quo is untenable.”
The consultation proposes to make paying cash for scrap metal a criminal offence, as in England and Wales. This would also apply to itinerant dealers.
But it came out against setting a threshold below which cash payments would be allowed for small transactions.
Small legitimate deals might become uneconomic with payment processing costs, but the consultation paper said: “Many thefts of metal only have a scrap value of a low amount [and] a threshold could be used as a loophole to allow cash payments to continue”.
The consultation also proposes to remove the exemption from the licensing system for dealers with a high turnover. It described this concession as “no longer tenable”.
Metal dealers could become required to install CCTV, though the Scottish Government said it expected to leave this to local authorities’ discretion as, “for some smaller dealers it might be disproportionate to the level of business conducted”.
The consultation also covers whether the requirement to wait 48 hours before processing or selling metal should be removed, and which forms of identification should be required from sellers.