Labour targets slot machines

THE spread of addictive casino slot machines labelled the “crack cocaine of gambling” would be halted under a Labour government in Scotland, the party has pledged.

Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) — high-speed, high-stake gaming machines — have already been banned in Ireland amid concerns that gamblers can lose up to £100 on them every 20 seconds.

FOBTs are currently limited to four machines per shop, which has led to betting shop “clustering”, where several betting shops open up within a short distance from one another to maximise the number of machines in an area.

Labour says it will use the new powers being delivered by the Smith agreement, devised in response to the independence referendum, to ban their spread.

Ken Macintosh, the party’s shadow social justice secretary, said: “The spread of FOBTs is a very real concern in our high streets. These are highly addictive machines where people can lose a lot of money, fast.”

In another policy initiative, Labour’s new Scottish leader Jim Murphy said Scotland’s railways would be returned to the public sector in a new non-profit ScotRail franchise if he becomes first minister.

A new “People’s ScotRail” would provide cheaper rail services with financial returns ploughed back into the Scottish public purse rather than going to foreign companies or shareholders, he said.

The Smith agreement will devolve powers to the Scottish parliament to allow a non-profit, public sector organisation to bid to run Scotland’s railways.

An SNP spokesman for transport minister Derek Mackay said: “Jim Murphy really has hit the buffers with this embarrassing gaffe. Non-profit organisations can already bid to run Scotland’s railways.”