THE cost of littering and fly-tipping in Scotland has been put at almost £100 million a year, prompting proposals for increased fines to stamp it out.

Research by Zero Waste Scotland, a public body that works to prevent littering and increase recycling, found that £53m is spent clearing up litter across the country each year, while more than £16m is spent cleaning our coastlines.

Litter also has an indirect cost of £25m by reducing property values, hitting tourism and contributing to health issues, while greater recycling of plastics and paper could actually be worth around £1m to the economy, according to the report.

Two separate consultations on land and marine litter have been launched by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, who suggests better education and increased recycling as ways to reduce litter.

Strengthening the enforcement system by increasing fixed penalty fines from £50 to £80 for litter and from £50 to £200 for fly-tipping is also proposed. Waste dumped on industrial or business premises can result in a fine of £40,000.

Mr Lochhead said: "Litter is a blight on Scotland's communities and coastlines, tarnishing our beautiful landscapes and harming our wildlife and natural assets.

"For the first time we're able to put a price on the real cost of littering, and with more than 250 million items of litter and over 60,000 fly-tipping incidents a year, we must all do more to tackle this problem.

"Much of this litter ends up on Scotland's coastline, which is extremely damaging to our precious marine environment and harmful to our wildlife. It is also a major eyesore, with waste often visible on our beaches and in our waters."

Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: "We welcome this consultation bringing a renewed impetus to efforts to tackle litter and fly-tipping. We particularly welcome the focus on litter prevention given the cost of clean-up to the public purse.

"Littered materials could be worth more than £1m to Scotland if they were recycled instead. We need to stop thinking of the things we discard as waste and instead treat them as resources which could benefit our economy."

The consultation, Towards A Litter-Free Scotland, runs until September 27, and the Government plans to create a national litter strategy in Parliament early next year.

The Marine Conservation Society welcomed the proposals. Scottish projects officer Anne Saunders said: "We applaud the approach that the Scottish Government is taking.

"We have made representations to the Scottish Government over the course of several years and, although delayed, it is good to see a consultation on the strategy at long last.

"A strategy is essential to make sure that everyone who has a part to play does tackle the ever-increasing litter problem which affects the environment, wildlife, industry and tourism, and to meet international commitments."

There was also a welcome for the project from Keep Scotland Beautiful, who earlier this year launched its own Clean-Up Scotland campaign. Director Jeremy Purvis said: "We need action to tackle our litter problem head-on.

"We're acting to quickly clean-up our country in time for the major international sporting and cultural events in 2014, and starting to work to change long-term behaviour, so that dropping litter becomes as socially unacceptable as drink driving is today.

"We are confident that we can reach our shared goal of making Scotland the most litter free country in Europe by 2020."