Lothian MSP Gordon Lindhurst has criticised Transport Minister Humza Yousaf for failing to take seriously the problem of laser pen attacks at Scottish airports.
It was reported in the Edinburgh Evening News late in February that pilots continue to be blighted by laser pens being shone into cockpits as aircraft make an approach to the runway at Ingliston in Edinburgh. There were 44 such cases reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2016, almost one incident every week.
The UK Government is attempting to respond to the problem by penning legislation, currently making its way through Westminster, that will make shining lasers at any transport operator an offence, carrying with it a potential punishment of imprisonment. Current law means that to hand out that level of punishment now requires police to have to prove that the aircraft was in danger; the new law means police will only have to prove the offence of shining a laser.
Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP Gordon Lindhurst asked the Transport Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on the legislation, which it is hoped will deter more people from committing the crime. He received the following reply:
“Sentencing is a matter for the courts taking into account all the circumstances of the case.”
In response to the one-line answer given, Gordon said:
“The response I received from the Transport Minister to a serious question I posed about a real problem affecting Scottish airports is frankly disgraceful.
"Westminster has taken the initiative to deal with a problem that, if not met head on, could potentially one day result in a horrific accident."
"Of course sentencing is a matter for the courts. But we are talking here about the early stages of legislation which is not yet law. What I wanted to know is what the Scottish Government position is - is it giving its backing to these proposals?"
"It appears from the Minister’s answer that the Scottish Government is not taking the issue seriously, and it is more concerned about breaking up the UK than actually dealing with serious issues affecting our country.”