A COALITION of rural and environmental groups have called for urgent action over a 'plague' of flytipping that is scarring Scotland's countryside during the lockdown.

Scottish Land & Estates, NFU Scotland, Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Woodland Trust are among the group who have written to minister to call for urgent clarity on how it intends to tackle flytipping.

In the letter, the organisations have said they would like to see a shift in focus from the "endless task of clearing up other people’s mess" to preventing it from occurring in the first place.

They have also warned that every week that passes by without serious action, is another week of our "beautiful country being used as a dumping ground".

The appeal also signed by Inspector Alan Dron, Police Scotland's national rural crime co-ordinator says there should be greater use of data to better assess the scale and impact of the problem which can then be used to "help drive action".

But the Scottish Government say that it has given theScottish Environment Protection Agency and local authorities the powers to fine anyone caught flytipping, with a minimum fixed penalty of £200 and a maximum fine of £40,000.

“We are absolutely clear flytipping is illegal, selfish and dangerous. Whatever the circumstances it is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse for this behaviour anywhere in Scotland," said a Scottish Government spokesman.

It comes as it emerged that illegal dumping of waste nearly doubled in Scotland in April immediately after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown when most recycling centres were shut and more than half of the nation's 32 local authorities cut waste collections.

The letter directed to environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s beautiful countryside continues to be blighted by people’s rubbish on a daily basis and the negative impact this is having is significant.

"We know that flytipping can cause a wide range of problems to the natural, social and economic environment, including harm to wildlife and livestock, disease transmission, soil contamination, attraction of other crimes and substantial clear-up costs.

“Waste crime is becoming an increasingly more visible issue and we believe a new approach is needed to turn the tables on this crime for good.

“With Scotland expected to host the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021 we believe this offers a unique catalyst for action, to look after our environment and encourage others to do the same."

The Scottish Government has launched a review of the national litter strategy which includes measures on flytipping.

But the coalition said they believe there must be a shift in focus from the "endless task of clearing up other people’s mess to preventing it from occurring in the first place".

It said there needed to be a more collaborative effort defined in a "coordinated strategic national response" to tackle flytipping in Scotland.

“With Scotland rightly perceived as leading the way on a range of environmental issues, we believe 2020 should be the year we must start to address this issue - now is the time to bring all stakeholders to the table and agree how we can collectively tackle flytipping," the groups said.

“We firmly believe that by dealing with flytipping more effectively there are significant benefits for Scotland’s economy – as well as for society and the environment – which as we recover from a global pandemic could not be more important. Every week that passes by without serious action, is another week of our beautiful country being used as a dumping ground.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added:“Flytipping has significant environmental and economic impacts. Materials that could be recycled are lost to the circular economy and taxpayer-funded organisations and landowners bear the cost of the clear-up. We would remind everyone that all incidents of flytipping should be reported to the Dumb Dumpers website.

"Further measures to influence behaviour towards litter and flytipping are set out within our National Litter Strategy. We are currently considering our next steps in respect of reviewing and updating the strategy.”