SCOTLAND’S countryside is being blighted with junk due to a rise in flytipping, it has been warned.

A joint statement by five leading rural and environmental organisations sounded the alarm over a wave of litter brought on by the coronavirus crisis.

The groups said fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste. 

They are now pleading with people across Scotland “not to be selfish”.

Politicians condemned the practice and insisted flytippers are breaking the law and putting others at risk.

Scottish Land and Estates, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland all urged the public to report any examples of flytipping. 

In a heartfelt statement, they highlighted the impact on farmers - including huge financial costs - at a time when many are already stretched.

They said: “Over the past few weeks, we have seen Scotland’s beautiful countryside being blighted even more with people’s junk. 

“Farmers’ fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.

“At a time when farmers are working around the clock to provide food for the nation and trying to keep their businesses running despite being short staffed, it is heartbreaking to see their land being used as a giant tip. 

“Additionally, local authorities have been forced to temporarily reduce or suspend some services due to the crisis, they are prioritising essential services to protect public health, therefore dealing with flytipping at this time puts added pressure on this limited resource.

“We are pleading with people not to be selfish. Now is not the time to try and get rid of items following a spring clean or DIY project, we are urging you to keep them at home until recycling centres re-open and charities begin to collect furniture and clothing again. 

“Please don’t be taken in by offers of cheap disposal – that’s likely to lead to others fly-tipping your items. 

“Keeping items on your own property for a few weeks is better than taking part in a criminal act that could have longer term consequences, not to mention a fine of up to £40,000.

“Flytipping is illegal, ugly and dangerous. It can be harmful to lambs, calves and other animals and wildlife too. But for farmers and other landowners, it is also costly to clean up. 

“Dealing with litter and flytipping costs an eye watering £53 million of public money in Scotland every year, and that’s only in relation to public land.

“This money could be better spent elsewhere, particularly at this time.

“When litter and flytipping occurs on private land such as farmers’ fields, it is down to the owner to have it removed – and to foot the bill for doing so. The costs involved are huge. 

“The effects are not all financial either. Flytipping takes time to clear responsibly, can block access, and can cause issues around health and safety.

“The public can also help by acting as the eyes and ears of their community - we urge anyone who notices flytipping to report it, so it can be dealt with by the appropriate authority. 

“This can be done in a number of ways, including through the online Dumb Dumpers website or reporting directly to the relevant local authority.

“As rural and environmental organisations, we are working together to stop flytipping – but we can only do it with the public’s support.”

The joint statement was signed by Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates; NFUS president Andrew McCornick; Alan Dron, rural crime coordinator at the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime; Barry Fisher, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful; and Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland.

The plea comes amid reports of a surge in flytipping across the UK.

Residents have been urged to act responsibly as councils suspend normal services such as household waste centres to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

There have also been concerns over an increase in waste as families spend more time at home and stock up on supplies.

Councils across Scotland have scaled-back services.

The collection of bulky waste has been suspended at Glasgow City Council since March 19.

It urges residents not to leave items on the street. Its website adds: “Please leave any unwanted items safely on your own property such as your back garden or your back court and remain mindful of any fire risk.”

All household waste recycling centres are closed until further notice.

Edinburgh has also suspended the collection of bulky waste, and advises residents: “If you have large items please keep them at home and only use communal and wheelie bins for your day to day waste and recycling.”

The city’s recycling centres are also closed until further notice.

Mavis Valley Recycling Centre in East Dunbartonshire has been closed since March 24, while household waste recycling centres in West Lothian were shut on the same date.

In West Dunbartonshire, the recycling centres at Ferry Road and Dalmoak are closed until further notice.

Similar measures have been put in place at councils up and down the country.

Mark Ruskell MSP, the Scottish Greens’ farming spokesman, said flytippers are putting others at risk.

He said: “Flytipping is illegal and dangerous at any time, but at a time of national emergency it is a downright disgrace. Emergency regulations state that people must stay at home unless they have an essential reason to be out.

“Those perpetrating this anti-social practice are not only breaching these regulations but they are putting others at risk, potentially spreading the virus while doing so.

“I’d urge anyone with information on anyone engaging in this irresponsible activity to report it to police and local authorities immediately.”

Scottish Conservative rural affairs spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton MSP said: “The country is going through an unprecedented crisis and farmers are doing their best to keep the food and drink supplies coming.

“The very least they deserve is to be repaid by increased fly-tipping.

“Flytipping is dangerous to livestock and hazardous for farm workers to clear-up. It’s completely unacceptable for people to think they can get rid of unwanted items, and that someone else will clear up the mess.”