Izzy is a longtime online writer. She's a car enthusiast who loves writing about the industry.
The taxi gangster wars in Glasgow are worth knowing about, so that similar criminal activities can be prevented from happening in other places.
The Glasgow taxi gangster wars started after some shrewd operators tried to muscle in on the lucrative taxi trade without having the necessary and expensive papers taxi drivers are required to produce. With no licence, no knowledge and no public hire insurance, these people soon found themselves in competition with others who had the same idea and the gangster wars started.
Background: Taxis in Glasgow
The City of Glasgow has always used London type cabs for its official fleet, and these taxi cabs are maintained to the highest standards to offer the public comfort and security.
The taxi drivers in Glasgow are police checked to ensure they are fit and proper to be left in charge of sometimes vulnerable members of the public.
Glasgow taxi drivers take pride in their work, and you won’t find a happier nor friendlier bunch of taxi drivers anywhere else in the world.
That said, Glasgow is a city of high unemployment, and more than a few suffer from what can only be described as ‘lazy-itis’. Some people don’t actually want to work, because out of work they receive more in benefits from the Social Security than they would in a low paid job, and anyway, they can’t be bothered.
Birth of the Private Hire
This system brought with it people who wanted just that little bit more.
They didn’t want a job, but they wanted more money, and so these people started using their cars – old bangers mostly – to ferry neighbours and friends around for money.
As this is basically what a taxi does, the taxi trade soon cottoned on to them, and labelled them pirates.
As the pirates grew in numbers, they got bolder, even going as far as opening offices and taking bookings, but without having licences, nor insurance nor suitable vehicles.
By the 1980s the problem had become so bad, that new legislation was introduced to deal with them – the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
This Law legitimized them. Now Scotland had another tier in the public transport system, called Private Hire.
Their cars had to pass a test and be fitted with a plate attached to the rear bumper to let the public know that they were licensed, and each driver was issued with a private hire driver’s licence.
For a while it was a free-for-all. Every newly unemployed bought himself a car, got registered and went to work.
In the 1980’s, Scotland suffered badly under Maggie Thatcher’s government and many heavy industries were closed for good.
Unemployment soared, and so did the numbers of private hire drivers.
Many Private Hire Drivers Also Claimed Unemployment Benefits
Not much was done to stop the flood; politically it looked better on the books to have less people on the unemployment register.
Little did they realise at the time that very few of these people actually went to the effort of signing off and were still claiming benefits.
There was not enough work for everyone, and so a lot of the private hire drivers found they could not afford the ‘plate’ (license) nor the insurance.
Perhaps this was where the criminal elements moved in, but before you could blink an eye, there was a healthy fake plate/license/insurance racket going on.
This was ONLY in the private hire trade; the taxis carried on as normal.
The Private Hire and the Drug Trade
No one, unless they were an insider, knew when the drug trade started to be part of the private hire trade, but with a huge and growing population of young addicts, addicted to first of all Temazepam and later heroin, the private hire became couriers.
Police found, on stopping one such car in the east end of the city, the driver to be in possession of over £20,000 in used notes and with a handgun underneath his seat.
One by one all the smaller private hire offices were burnt down, usually when they were still open for trade. Luckily no one was killed.
Rumor has it that they had refused to be ‘bought over’.
Word spread of shady owners, of gangster involvement.
Police set traps, but still they got away (insider involvement?).
The Gangsters that Controlled the Private Hire Trade
Meanwhile, the owners got richer and richer.
One such, known as ‘The Licensee’, owned a plush £1M house yet had never paid a penny in tax in his life, nor could he show a court any logical way he could have earned the money.
Everything he had, he put in his wife’s name, and in Scotland a wife cannot in Law be forced to testify against her husband.
Now he has sold out to yet another ‘gangster’ whose background is clean, even if one of the companies he owns was found to operating with over 100 stolen cars, and he was himself at one point charged with burning down a police car pound.
The charges were later dropped and other people took the blame for the stolen cars, even though it was his company.
This man, known as ‘The Fat Controller’ is a multi-millionaire and he has built his empire up in just a few short years though tanning salons and private hire companies, which just incidentally, being cash businesses, are perfect for money laundering.
Everyone, it seems, who is a director of a private hire company in Scotland, has a shady background with at least some involvement in the drugs trade.
Use Licensed Taxis
A note to the uninformed: you will never become a millionaire driving taxis, nor by owning legitimate taxi or private hire firms.
So if you ever visit Glasgow, stay clear. Only used a licensed taxi when out and about. Be safe. Be secure. Glasgow’s licensed taxi fleet are the only ones you should use if you are concerned about your safety.
In any other Scottish city or airport terminal, use the taxis from the ranks even if they don’t drive London style taxis.If they have a taxi sign on the roof saying the word TAXI, then you know you will be safe.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Farnborough Taxi Online from Farnborough, Hampshire on April 04, 2013:
There had been some clashes between 'hackney' taxi drivers and private car hire operators/drivers in Rushmoor area, there are only a couple of large hackney taxi operators in Rushmoor and they dominate the market sometime 20 years ago, these days, with the opportunities wide open, private car hire operators sprouted like mushrooms, a private car hire driver could be a one-man taxi operator.
What are the efforts of Glasgow Taxi Licesing to to control or eradicate what you had claimed 'fake licenses for private car hire'? Aren't the hackney taxi drivers vigilant enough who are licensed and what are the fake license plates looked like?
IzzyM (author) from UK on April 04, 2011:
Thanks Simone. Do you think I need to change my home address soon?
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 04, 2011:
Whoah, that's intense! Great Hub!