Fears over ‘legalised littering’ - 48,539 incidents reported in Glasgow but few punished

More than 134,000 fly-tipping incidents have been flagged to councils in the past two years, but only a fraction of these were referred to prosecutors.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats raised concerns littering has been “effectively legalised” as it emerged local authorities received 134,974 reports of fly-tipping, but just 34 were referred to the Procurator Fiscal.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party showed Glasgow City Council reported the highest number of incidents with 48,539, followed by Edinburgh with 25,717.

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Baths, asbestos, washing machines and bin bags piled up under the M8 motorway last year. Picture: John Devlin

Across Scotland, just 1879 fixed penalty notices have been issued since September 2019.

Only eight local authorities passed cases to the Procurator Fiscal.

Aberdeen City Council failed to respond to the request for information, while East Lothian refused to provide the information without a fee.

‘Widespread issue’

Scottish Liberal Democrat communities spokesman Willie Rennie said: “Not only does fly-tipping spoil the appearance of our beautiful country, it can be devastating for crops and animals.

“From remote beauty spots to busy cities, these figures show that this is a widespread issue, yet only a tiny fraction of cases ever result in a fine or a trip to court.

“With refuse collections disrupted and tips closed for long stretches, it’s no surprise that this has been a particular issue since the pandemic hit.

“The Scottish Government has effectively legalised littering on an industrial scale.

“We need to see local authorities using the powers at their disposal to clamp down on this disgusting behaviour and ensure that repeat offenders especially feel the full force of the law.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats also want to see increased support for farmers and those who bear the brunt of fly-tipping to help them with the clear up costs.

“This should use the proceeds of a new restitution order which hits offenders’ pockets hard.”

Toughening up rules

The Scottish Government is currently considering plans to crack down on fly-tipping, including by more than doubling fines.

Meanwhile, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser is working on a Members’ Bill that would toughen up fines and seek to make those who dump rubbish illegally responsible for cleaning it up.

He said: “Fly-tipping continues to be a serious blight on Scotland’s landscape and these statistics show that a shockingly low number are not facing tough consequences for their crimes.

“Current deterrents simply do not go far enough in stopping people from fly-tipping in our communities.

“My Member’s Bill will change the law so that tougher punishments are put in place to crack down on those who think fly-tipping is acceptable.

“Despite the best efforts of local councils – against a background of savage SNP cuts – too few cases are being taken forward for prosecution.”

What has the Scottish Government said?

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want a Scotland that is free of the blight of fly-tipping and last month we proposed a bold set of measures to tackle this issue.

“These include more than doubling the fines for fly-tipping and developing best practice guidance to support authorities with powers to issue fines.

“We are also looking at the possibility of using civil penalties to enforce offences.

“These actions will send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, and help make our streets, countryside and public spaces free of illegal dumping.”