In Scotland, more than 26,000 tonnes of litter are illegally fly-tipped every year. There are around 62,000 separate fly-tipping incidents every year, costing Scottish taxpayers more than £11 million. While the maximum penalty for this crime is substantial in both England and Scotland, the use of a scale means that it is rarely meted out. In truth, the minimum fine on both sides of the border is typically less than £500. As such, although there is still a criminal penalty, on the rare occasions that a fly-tipper is caught, they can often escape with a slap on the wrist, even though a much stronger punishment is required.
In Angus in a five-year period, 1,870 incidents were reported, but only two prosecutions were made. Fly-tipping makes our communities less clean, less attractive and less pleasant places to live. It lowers people’s enjoyment of their own communities through no fault of their own, reduces house prices and can even pose a safety hazard.
It should be a basic responsibility of local government to ensure that communities are kept clean and that any fly-tipping is dealt with swiftly. Simply taking note of some fly-tipping and leaving it to be dealt with at a later date is not good enough. Local authorities owe that to the residents they serve. We have heard that different councils face different fly-tipping challenges; for example, Angus is a rural area that has to have a different approach to fly-tipping from that of a more urban area. Larger rural areas such as Angus naturally have more remote spaces where fly-tippers might choose to dump their rubbish. It is easier, therefore, for fly-tipping to go unnoticed for longer periods of time.
The residents of Angus have risen to the challenge of tackling this issue. I have been deeply impressed with the efforts of constituents such as Mrs Jacquie Steel who, along with groups such as the Angus Litter Summit, has selflessly organised community groups to pick up litter along rural roadsides. Additionally, through initiatives such as the adopt-a-street scheme, Angus residents assume responsibility for a specific part of their town and tend to it diligently.