Rachel Stamford

News Editor

A campaign is ensuring people don't get into cars driven by unlicensed cabs who exploit their fares and take rides away from law-abiding drivers.

As hundreds of Glaswegians partake in Christmas events throughout the city a new campaign is reminding partygoers not to take "pirate taxis" as a faster and potentially unsafe way home.

"Know what you're getting into" was created by Unite, a union which supports workers' rights, to ensure people don't get into cars driven by those posing as taxi drivers or unlicensed cabs. "Pirate taxis" driven by these "pirate drivers" are breaching cab licensing restrictions and invalidating car insurance by picking up fares on the street.

The campaign involves highlighting cab safety through social media and leafleting throughout Glasgow and Edinburgh. The advice includes only hailing and pre-booking cabs that are licensed, and asking to see the driver's taxi license identification number. 

Unite is also calling for stronger enforcement measures to tackle pirate taxis.

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said Unite's Glasgow and Edinburgh taxi branch members are sending a viral and important safety message to all who use taxi cabs and private hire vehicles during holiday festivities around the cities.

"The message is simple: stay safe," Rafferty said.

Over the past five years, more than 100 drivers have had their licence suspended by Glasgow City Council for pirating.

Earlier this year, Councillor Alex Wilson said the problem was more widespread than the figures show as the numbers are only those reported for the offence.

"I don't think they are going far enough and I think between ourselves, Unite and Police Scotland, we need to send a message to the procurator fiscal that we would prefer to see a points system given to drivers who are caught," Wilson said.

Often pirate taxis charge more than a regular fare and take rides from licensed cab drivers. Steven Grant is cab section secretary at Unite and drives a public hire taxi. In an interview with BBC, Grant said pirate taxis have a big economic impact on both taxi drivers and private hire drivers.

"We are out there legitimately working to the conditions of our licences and we have these people - opportunists - sitting waiting to rip off the public," Grant said.  "Everyone is okay with competition, but what we need is everyone to work legitimately. It is extremely dangerous because you have someone that is quite willing to break their licence conditions, to invalidate their insurance, and there is scope there for further crime."

Police Scotland said they would continue to work with the council's licensing department to tackle the problem.

Chief Inspector Gillian Norrie said: "People should be aware of the risks of using an illegal taxi which includes drivers not being vetted or having any insurance cover. Licensed taxi drivers are vetted to ensure they are fit and proper persons to convey the public around."



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