EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND — Police came under fire for failing to crack down on unlicensed limousine companies in the Capital. The city council introduced strict rules two years ago requiring limousine operators to register as private-hire firms. The move was designed to ensure all drivers were fully vetted before they were allowed behind the wheel and that their vehicles were roadworthy.
But it is believed most limousine company managers have ignored the demand and continue to operate without licenses. It is believed that only four of the 25 businesses offering limousine services in Edinburgh have signed up.
It is a criminal offense to operate a hire vehicle without a license and enforcing the law is the responsibility of the Edinburgh Cab Inspector's Office, a body run by the police. Councilman Phil Attridge, a former head of the city's licensing committee, said the law was being "flouted" and called for the police to enforce it.
Attridge said, "The Edinburgh Cab Inspector's Office has a responsibility to report anyone without a license. Some limousines serve alcohol, which they are not licensed to do. They often have inebriated people hanging out of skylights as they drive along. Is it going to take a nasty accident for some action to be taken?
"If an unlicensed taxi was being operated I'm sure the cab office would be quick to act, but stretch limousines are not being forced to comply. There is no control over the condition of these vehicles or whether these drivers have criminal records. It's making a nonsense of the rules."
The licensing committee acted in May 2003 to ensure that limousines, often used to ferry “hen” parties and “stag” parties around the city, were treated the same as private-hire firms.
Former Hearts and Rangers footballer Alan McLaren now runs The Stretched Company, which provides limousine services. He said, "The law clearly states that all limousines in Edinburgh must have a license. We've always adhered to the law but we're one of only four companies who have. There must be greater clarification over the system."
A police spokesman said, "The licensing of vehicles is a matter for the council and we understand that they are in the process of sending letters out to the operators of these limousines, reminding them quite clearly of their requirements and responsibilities. After receipt of these letters, enforcement will be carried out by the council, the Vehicle Inspectorate and the police."
The council's licensing changes were sparked by concerns over a gimmick employed by a city nightclub, which offered drinkers the chance of a free limousine ride to the venue. The now-defunct Eros and Elite at the Fountainpark leisure complex was also condemned by anti-alcohol abuse campaigners for the stunt.
A private car-hire license only allows pre-booked customers to be picked up. Limousine operators have been asked to spend 720 (Great Britain Pound) per limousine for their license and submit to checks on both vehicles and drivers. Limousines can carry up to eight passengers and cost around 30,000 (Great Britain Pound) to buy.