O NE-THIRD of councils in Scotland are echoing the decision by Glasgow City Council to permit taxi drivers to install surveillance systems in their cabs.
A survey by the Sunday Herald has found 11 out of 32 authorities now permit or are considering allowing CCTV in cabs.
And one of the main factors prompting the move is the racial abuse of Asian taxi drivers.
Loading article content
Councillors in Fife have just given the go-ahead for a £5000 pilot scheme - believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland - which will offer funding for CCTV to be installed in taxis in the Dunfermline area.
Glasgow City Council last week gave permission for operators of black cabs and private-hire cars to install cameras for the first time.
William McIntosh, general secretary of the Scottish Taxi Federation, said many of the problems arose at night, particularly when passengers had been drinking.
He said: "Taxi drivers are very vulnerable because they are on their own. I believe some Asian drivers are also particularly subject to abuse.
"If passengers know CCTV is there, it might cause them to think twice before they get involved in incidents."
McIntosh argued the use of recording systems could also act to protect the driver in different situations - such as having false allegations made against them - as well as providing protection for passengers.
He added the objective was not just to film incidents, but to try to prevent them happening in the first place.
Saqib Majeed, president of the Scottish Ethnic Private Hire Welfare Association, which has around 150 members, said the organisation had been set up to help drivers from ethnic minorities speak out about racial abuse.
He said: "We have got a lot of Asian drivers and there wasn't any voice that could speak of their concerns to the local authorities.
"We are encouraging them to report incidents [of racist abuse] so other parties know what is going on.
"Nightshift is more trouble as compared to day, but incidents can happen any time
"It is common to get questions [from passengers] of why are you not working in your own country, all these sort of things. The CCTV is a very big help for us and is going to be a good step towards our drivers' safety."
He added: "In private-hire cars particularly, we have no protection as there is no barrier between us and the customer."
The pilot scheme run by Fife Council will be trialled in the Dunfermline area, offering cabs and private-hire cars the opportunity to install a CCTV system which can record images and sound.
Councillor Bob Young, chair of Fife Council's regulation and licensing committee, said the idea was partly in response to an assault on a local taxi driver, and figures showing there had been around 1500 fare-dodgers over an 18-month period in Fife.
He also argued it would help lone women to feel safer when they were travelling late at night.
"There have to be stickers that say there is CCTV in operation in this car, just like in a shop," he said. "You go into a shop and you see there is CCTV in operation."
He added: "We are probably the most photographed nation in the world, but I know CCTV has cut down on violence on the buses, so it is just another aspect of that."
Other local authorities which permit CCTV to be installed in taxis include Dundee City Council. A spokeswoman said its policy had been in place for over a year and six taxis were fitted with systems which allow both image and audio recording.
A spokeswoman for East Ayrshire Council said a "very small" number of requests had been received for the use of CCTV in taxis and private-hire cars.
She added: "These requests have been approved as there are legitimate reasons for drivers to seek to protect both themselves and their passengers whilst in the vehicle. It should also be noted that CCTV has been in operation on buses for many years."
East Renfrewshire Council said at least eight vehicle operators had installed systems in their vehicles since the use of CCTV in taxis and private-hire cars was permitted in 2009.
In Falkirk, taxi operators can install CCTV systems with prior approval from the council.
A spokeswoman for the council added: "At present there are only a few taxi operators who have CCTV systems in their vehicles."
South Ayrshire Council allows the use of a system to "record entry or exit of passengers by way of video images", subject to prior approval.
Meanwhile, West Lothian Council confirmed it introduced a policy allowing the use of CCTV in 2009, but no operators have yet taken this up.
South Lanarkshire Council said CCTV has been permitted in taxis since 2001, subject to approval of the system used. A spokesman said two taxi and two private-hire operators had approval for CCTV in their vehicles, subject to compliance with the Information Commissioner's code of conduct and the condition that no audio recording was allowed.
In Edinburgh, council officials agreed to examine the possibility of taxis using passenger facing CCTV cameras at a meeting last November, with a report due back in six months.
A report on CCTV in taxis is also due to be considered by Aberdeen City Council's licensing committee "in the future".