Environmentalists have backed a new campaign calling on both the Scottish and UK governments to crack down on the use of plastic drinking straws.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has given its backing to SNP MSP Kate Forbes’ Final Straw campaign as it was officially launched.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch warned plastic rubbish was “choking” the seas, damaging the environment and putting marine wildlife in danger.

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Items such as plastic straws can take up to 500 years to decompose, she said, warning that as many as £3 billion worth of these could be thrown away every year across Scotland.

Ms Forbes said: “I represent a constituency which stretches from the east to the west coasts and I can see the impact of plastics on our seas.

“Along our coastline, plastics are choking our seas, damaging the environment and risking the lives of seabirds and sea creatures.

“One of the most common plastic items on the beach are plastic straws.

“We could be throwing out just under £3 billion of straws every year in Scotland, based on US estimates of people using an average of 1.6 straws per day every year.

“The pub chain Wetherspoons have indicated that they consume 70 million straws a year in the UK, and so the figures are huge.”

Ms Forbes wants to see the use of plastic straws banned but stressed: “Any ban has got to be UK-wide because the sea does not respect country borders and plastic straws washed out to sea in the south of England could easily end up on the Highland coastline.

“That’s why my campaign to calls on both the UK and Scottish governments to crack down on plastic straws as part of an overall strategy to ban single-use, disposable items such as cotton buds and throwaway cutlery where environmentally-friendly alternatives exist.”

She also called on pubs and restaurants to “stop handing out straws automatically and to only provide biodegradable alternatives” – saying the pub chain Wetherspoons had already done so.

The campaign has the backing of the MCS, with Scotland conservation officer Catherine Gemmell stating: “It is fantastic to see MSP Kate Forbes call for a ban on plastic straws as they are one of the many single-use plastic items that we find rising in numbers on our beaches, in our seas and impacting our wildlife.

“A straw is only used for minutes yet will remain in the environment and our oceans for hundreds of years to come.

“This is why at MCS we are also calling on all the governments of the UK to put in place a levy on other single-use items such as cutlery and coffee cups to reduce the amount of plastic in use.”