LITTER louts disposed of 120 tonnes of rubbish along some of Scotland's busiest motorways in the last year, it was revealed as a major summer clean up gets underway.

Scotland TranServ, the highways agency in charge of maintaining trunk roads and motorways across south-west Scotland on behalf of Transport Scotland, said in the last 12 months alone staff filled 12,000 bags with food wrappers, drinks cartons, cigarette butts and other litter thrown from cars or abandoned in laybys by motorists using the M8, the major Glasgow to Edinburgh artery, as well as M74, M80, M898 and M77 motorways.

The rubbish weighed the equivalent of 80 average family cars or 12 bin lorries.

Flytippers also disposed of some 10,000 items along the routes, including mattresses, kitchen appliances, barbecues, a garden shed and even a kitchen sink.

The figures were revealed as the agency launched a campaign to tackle the piles of litter that are thrown on Scotland's roadsides every day.

Transport Minister, Derek Mackay said: "Scotland is renowned across the world for being a beautiful country with wonderful scenery and we want to keep it that way.

"I would urge anyone who throws rubbish out of their car windows to think about the massive effort and expense that goes into clearing up that mess.

"This money could be spent improving our roads, so I would ask everyone to put items like food wrappers, empty drinks cans or chewing gum in a bag and dispose of them responsibly."

Flytipping and litter costs the Scottish economy an estimated £78 million annually, with TranServ alone losing 7,000 man hours a year on litter collection.

"This is time that could be better spent improving the resilience of our trunk roads and motorways," said operations manager Malcolm Shanks. "There are around 40 litter hotspots on south west Scotland's roads and our operatives put their lives at risk working next to high speed roads to clear up this mess."

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, head of road policing for Police Scotland, added: "Littering in any circumstances is an offence and an antisocial practice that is totally unacceptable to the majority of people. "To drop litter on motorways and the trunk road network is even worse in that the debris can cause damage to vehicle tyres or windscreens and distract other road users.

"Dealing with these hazards puts road crews unnecessarily at risk, as they work in close proximity to fast moving traffic, and the clean-up work can itself distract other road users.

"When anyone is found to be littering on the roads, they can expect swift and appropriate action to be taken by road patrol officers."

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, welcomed the campaign.

He said: "I hope that drivers will think again before littering and spoiling our beautiful countryside and towns.

"Litter is not only extremely unsightly but very costly- Zero Waste Scotland research shows the direct and indirect costs to Scotland are more than £78m a year."

Gordon Wilson, contract director for Scotland TranServ, added: "Too much time and money is being spent on clearing up litter from our motorways and trunk roads; efforts that could be better focused on improving our infrastructure for generations to come.

"Scotland TranServ is doing all we can to tackle this problem, from joining forces with local authorities to supporting Zero Waste Scotland in raising awareness but we are relying on motorists to play their part and drive their litter home."