Metal has been stolen during more than 1,200 raids on electricty substations owned by SP Energy Networks in the past four years.

Part of the ScottishPower Group, SP Energy Networks owns and operates the electricity transmission and distribution network in Central & Southern Scotland, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire.

The findings were released by the company during the Metal Theft Summit, planned by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, which took place on 23 February in Cambuslang, Scotland, to highlight the problem of metal theft.

Each attack costs SP Energy Networks thousands of pounds in repair bills, and can also cause loss of power to homes and businesses, as well as major safety risks to both the public and the perpetrators.

In 2013, a man was fatally electrocuted when he made direct contact with 11Kv equipment at the Kelvinburn Pole Mounted Transformer in Shotts, in an attempt to steal copper earthing. The raids have resulted in two other fatalities and there have been more than 20 arrests during this time.

SP Energy Networks highlighted there have been 1,212 substation attacks – effectively one a day - in Scotland since 2011, which have contributed to the utility facing a bill for £18 million across the UK, which includes repairs and extra security.

Scottish churches have also found themselves a victim as thieves look to steal lead copper roof coverings and pipes.

Eddie Mulholland, SP Energy Networks district manager, said: "Metal theft from the electricity network continues to put lives at risk, and threaten the safety of communities.

It beggars belief that criminals continue to dice with death for a few pounds worth of scrap metal. What is more concerning is their complete disregard for the power cuts they have caused, and the house fires they have started. “We support all efforts to stop these selfish criminals, and restrict their ability to sell stolen metal."

The event took place as the Scottish Government announced key legislation to prohibit scrap metal dealers from accepting cash payments and force them to identify sellers – in a bid to better regulate the trade of scrap metal – which will come into force in September 2016.

Alongside British Transport Police, the SBRC has been working in partnership with Police Scotland, DWP and Trading Standards to ensure the success of Operation Scandium – an awareness raising initiative, which included stopping vehicles across major Scottish towns and cities to educate drivers about scrap metal legislation.

Chief Superintendent John McBride of the British Transport Police said: "We will continue to work closely with the industry and a wide range of partners to ensure the affect of the new legislation is communicated and understood. While we have seen a welcome decrease in the number of incidents from a high of several years ago, metal theft continues to disrupt and inconvenience industry and the public as well as being costly to rectify."