Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More legislative and law enforcement failure. And hypocrisy.

The recent political posturing in the Scottish Parliament over a proposal that would only have marginally checked the consumption of alcohol ably demonstrated the largely pointless nature of the liquor licensing legislation passed by the former Labour/Lib Dem Executive.

Last week's proposal by Kenny MacAskill for an accreditation scheme relating to taxi and private hire operations surely demonstrates the ineffectiveness of another recent piece of legislation - namely that for licensing radio despatch operations to complement long-standing driver and vehicle vetting regimes - since the justice secretary clearly thinks licensing alone does not provide sufficient assurance to the public that these businesses have no links to organised crime.

And the fact that the latest legislation was probably in gestation for as long as the Scottish Parliament has existed surely demonstrates the unsatisfactory nature of these and wider matters.

For example, in 2004 a newspaper report quoted SNP MSP Sandra White as being "shocked and amazed" at the lack of controls over stretch limousines, following allegations of money laundering. Of course, the vast majority of operators will not be involved in such criminality, but in any case these vehicles have variously taken advantage of an often dubious contract hire exemption in the current legislation, are subject to similarly murky regulations intended for buses, or are simply ignored by local authorities. This is another issue that politicians and officials have been procrastinating on for years, clearly considering inaction to be the best option.

This week Mr MacAskill said that the taxi and private hire sector was "particularly vulnerable to money laundering given the nature of its business transactions". Earlier this year Ms White said the grey market in taxi licence plates was a "very disturbing problem", and this was even ignoring subsequent allegations by a Glasgow private hire firm that these transactions are used for money laundering.

However, the SNP Government seems loath to even acknowledge the existence of the market in licence plates, thus lending a hypocritical edge to its latest initiative against organised crime.

(An unpublished letter sent to the Herald.)

No comments: