New figures released by the National Farmers Union (NFU) show that rural crime cost Scotland £2.3m in 2019.
This is a 44.1% increase on the previous year and represents the largest proportional increase of any region of the UK.
The NFU report noted that the COVID-19 lockdown has led to a reported increase in fly tipping and dog attacks and that by April 2020 livestock rustling had increased by 15% across the UK.
The rising threat of organised gangs of livestock rustlers was noted by the NFU in January 2020 when the organisation stated that the nature and scale of raids had changed and that reports of 50-100 sheep being taken were now not uncommon.
Recently, a farm in Lilliesleaf in the Scottish Borders was targeted by rustlers and 73 sheep were stolen over a period of 12 days.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP commented:
“I am appalled to see such an increase in the cost of rural crime in Scotland and am deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on agricultural thefts.
“At a time when we are relying on our nation’s farmers more than ever, it is galling to think that some people are willing to strip farmers of their livelihoods and cause irreversible harm to rural communities.
“The recent sheep rustling incident in Lilliesleaf, during which 32 ewes and 42 lambs were taken, paints a clear picture of the scale of modern rural crime and highlights the devastating impact it can have on farmers.
“I have written to the Scottish Government to determine how many reported rural crimes led to prosecutions and convictions. I will also continue to work to ensure that organisations like the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, which does excellent work holistically tackling rural crime, are well equipped to help farmers who fall victim to agricultural thefts and livestock rustling.”