SEPA has told Scottish business they should “prioritise conditions that directly protect the environment” over administrative matters amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has warned firms that if they “deliberately do the wrong thing” by flouting relaxed standards during the coronavirus outbreak, they could face an “uncompromising” response form the regulator.

Sepa has recognised that many businesses will be unable to meet all standards due to restrictions during the pandemic but warned against abusing the temporary rule relaxation.

Sepa chief executive Terry A'Hearn said: "We know that all businesses we regulate are trying to operate in extraordinary circumstances.

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"We know they are trying to look after the health of their own workforces.

"We know they may have supply chain and other challenges.

"So, where businesses are unable to fully meet their compliance obligations, they should prioritise conditions which directly protect the environment over those of an administrative nature.

"They should contact Sepa, work closely with us and document the choices and actions they take.

"The positions are a direct response to circumstances no-one wanted to see."

He added: "We ask Scottish businesses to adapt responsibly and we expect the majority will.

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"Our message is clear: if you try to do the right thing in this next period, you will find a helpful and supportive regulator. "If you deliberately do the wrong thing, you'll get the uncompromising regulator your behaviour deserves."

The response aims to focus support on food security, provision of clean water and the maintenance of critical infrastructure by helping Scottish businesses adapt.

Sepa regulates 33 sectors of the economy it but it will also use its new philosophy to support 13 critical national infrastructure industries identified by the Scottish Government.

Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP said: "I welcome the pragmatic approach adopted by Sepa at this time of crisis, which recognises the pressure some small businesses are facing.

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"It is vital that environmental and public health measures are always given prominence by business and I'm sure the support offered by the regulator will be welcomed.

"While supporting businesses who are trying to do the right thing, it's clear that Sepa will take a much harder line with any business that deliberately flouts environmental laws at this time."