Raising awareness of the cost of rural crime

South Scotland list MSP Emma Harper joined Police Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates at Wallet Mart Agricultural Auction in Castle Douglas to raise awareness of rural crime and her livestock worrying act which is now in force.

Emma Harper attends Wallet Mart Agricultural Auction
Emma Harper attends Wallet Mart Agricultural Auction

Leading agricultural insurer NFU Mutual’s most recent Rural Crime Survey estimated that criminal activity cost those living in Scotland’s countryside around £1.9m in 2020.

The most common items stolen over the last 12 months were quad bikes, tools and fuel such as domestic heating oil and ‘red’ diesel.

Although high-value thefts of machinery such as tractors may be planned and highly organised, the number of stolen tools, gates and wire indicates opportunist thieves continue to operate.

NFU Mutual has also identified livestock rustling as a pressing issue.

As well as the important issue of rural crime, Ms Harper was also able to discuss the issue of livestock worrying with the farmers present and was able to raise awareness that her Dogs: (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act is now in force.

This increases the penalties available to the courts, including a fine of £40,000, disqualification from owning a dog, or a 12 month custodial sentence.

Ms Harper said: “It was great to get along to Wallet Mart to join Police Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates.

“We had many discussions with farmers about the very real impact of rural crime on Scotland’s farmers so it was good to see the work Police Scotland are doing to help farmers know which steps they can take – such as installing CCTV on farm – to protect themselves.

“While I was at the Mart, I was able to raise awareness of the legislation I took through the Scottish Parliament which updated the 67-year-old livestock worrying Act which is now in force and which increases the penalties available to the courts.

“Attacks on livestock by out of control dogs have serious financial and emotional consequences to farmers and their families.

“I urge all to be aware of the law, to know the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and to take responsibility when walking their dog in the countryside.

“I will continue to work with all involved in the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, and with our agricultural sector, to see instances of rural crime, and dog attacks on livestock, decrease.”

John Cowan, Wildlife Crime Officer with Dumfries and Galloway Police, also attended the event and welcomed the amended act.

He added: “I was pleased that Emma Harper was able to join us at Wallet Mart to help raise awareness of livestock worrying and rural crime.

“Police Scotland and rural crime officers, including Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, have worked closely over the years with Ms Harper and key stakeholders, such as Scottish Land & Estates and the National Farmers Union, to bring together amendments to archaic legislation which did not provide adequate protections.

"The Act encourages more people to behave responsibly when walking their dogs in or around farmland with the new penalties hopefully acting as an appropriate deterrent to those who are not.”