Ministers have warned that people flouting new rules to combat bird flu could face prison as Scotland remains on 'high' alert.

The move comes as the Scottish Government declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to the threat from bird flu.

The zone means the introduction of stringent biosecurity measures for all bird keepers, including those who keep pet birds, to help prevent the spread of avian influenza from wild birds or any other source.

The "precautionary step" has been taken in response to cases of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 which ministers say is "causing high mortality in poultry and wild birds in England and in Europe".

The measures will be kept under review and will be adjusted to reflect the risks. A similar zone has also been declared in England and Wales.

READ MORE: German region orders poultry indoors over bird flu as Scotland remains on 'high' alert

The Scottish Government says a failure to comply with the declaration may be an offence under section 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981 liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to both.

HeraldScotland:

Last week the Herald revealed that the risk from bird flu had been raised to 'high' after two unrelated confirmed cases in England and increasing reports of the disease affecting flocks in mainland Europe.

The chief vets from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are urging bird keepers to maintain and strengthen their farm biosecurity measures in order to prevent further outbreaks of avian influenza in the UK.

The vets said the UK has robust biosecurity measures and monitoring in place to prevent the disease spreading in this country and "the risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the general public in the UK remains very low".

But the economic cost can be significant.

According to the rules under the declaration poultry, game birds or waterfowl are no longer permitted to gather whilst the zone is in place.

The Chief Veterinary Officer has revoked a general licence to "arrange a fair, market, show, exhibition or other gathering involving the collecting together of poultry or other captive birds in Scotland".

Any keeper of poultry or other captive birds must take "all appropriate and practicable steps" to avoid the transfer of virus contamination between premises or parts of premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept.

Effective vermin control has to be carried out in areas where birds are kept.

The movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from any part of the premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept has to be cut to those that are "essential"for looking after the welfare of the poultry or other captive birds, collecting eggs and feeding.

HeraldScotland:

Other than zoos, records have to be kept of all vehicles that enter any part of the premises where poultry or other captive birds are kept and of all people who come into any direct contact with the poultry or other captive birds.

Ducks or geese access should be kept apart from other poultry or captive birds.

The guidance states that measures should be taken to discourage wild birds, in particular gulls and wild waterfowl, from entering outdoor range areas.

Regular cleaning and disinfecting is required of all concrete walkways, paths and similar surfaces to which poultry or other captive birds and wild birds have access.

The vets say all bird keepers are being urged to prevent direct or indirect contact with wild birds, with the risk of infection of poultry in Great Britain also being raised from ‘low’ to ‘medium’.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

Wild birds impacted in the EU already have included Eurasian wigeon, mute swan, greylag goose, cormorant, barnacle goose, curlew, Eurasian buzzard, peregrine falcon, white-tailed eagle, cane goose.

A cull of 13,000 birds was ordered at a poultry farm in Frodsham, in Cheshire last week with health officials saying it was the"highly pathogenic strain" related to the virus currently circulating in Europe.

HeraldScotland:

A smaller cull was reported at a farm in Kent, in the south-east of England, where the H5N2 avian influenza strain was detected this week.

All 480 ducks and chickens on the site near the town of Deal were to be killed to limit the spread of the disease, the Government has confirmed.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has also been announced across the whole of England to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, after birds in Devon were found to have been infected.

One adult black swan and five cygnets were confirmed dead on Monday in Dawlish, while others are reported to be unwell.

Other cases of the 'highly pathogenic' H5N8 strain have also been confirmed in Gloucestershire, Dorset and now Herefordshire.