Environmental officers are looking to Italy to crack down on a "McMafia" which is profiting from illegal waste disposal in Scotland.

Gangs use violence to secure waste disposal contracts, cut corners and fiddle taxes using similar tactics to Mafia clans in southern Italy, Holyrood's Justice Committee has heard.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is liaising with international crime fighters to tackle organised environmental crime. Committee convener Christine Grahame said: "People just don't believe that we have something like a McMafia here, that serious organised crime perhaps is so clever in Scotland that they just don't think it's happening at that level."

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Sepa national waste and enforcement manager William Wilson said: "Is Scotland a soft touch? I would say it is not. Is there more to be done? Definitely. How do we compare with other countries? Better than a number.

"Italy has a well-entrenched problem with Mafia clans, particularly in the waste sector in the southern half of the country.

"We as an agency are in touch with Interpol and Europol, we're partners within the policing working group and we are anxious to take part in initiatives that learn from best practice."

Sepa is analysing why waste is such an attractive option for organised crimes, and looking at what types of waste are particularly attractive.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Ruaridh Nicolson said: "Organised crime is unlikely just to be involved in environmental crime.

"They will have firearms, drugs, everything else you can think of."