A GROUP of Perthshire estates has called on deputy first minister John Swinney for help after “serious incidents of anti-social behaviour wreaked havoc in rural areas”.
As lockdown restrictions began to ease, there was a “dramatic” rise in the number of people visiting Loch Clunie, which led to incidents around the A923 road between Dunkeld and Blairgowrie.
The trouble culminated in an estate worker being attacked and stabbed as well as police being called out on multiple occasions.
The estate worker is now recovering at home.
Incidents reported last weekend included vehicles being driven and parked on private roads, trees being chopped down and fence posts pulled out to be used for firewood, bonfires being lit, bins set alight and a huge amount of litter left behind.
Many of these issues were recurring problems in the months and years prior to recent lockdown measures, the group said.
The estates – Forneth Estate, The Cope Farming Company, Wester Kinloch and Snaigow Estate – have written to Swinney, who is also the member of the Scottish Parliament for Perthshire North, via trade body Scottish Land & Estates, asking for urgent discussions on how these incidents can be prevented in future.
The estates have also joined forces with local people through community group Friends of Clunie Loch to organise a clean-up of the affected areas, where damage and debris has been left behind.
Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The incidents around Loch Clunie last weekend were beyond shocking and culminated in an innocent worker almost losing their life as they attempted to prevent the serious anti-social behaviour in the area.
“The lockdown period around Blairgowrie and Dunkeld – as well as in many other rural areas – has led to a heightened spate of mindless and dangerous acts, including incidents of vandalism and flytipping.
“The small minority who engage in such criminality have accessed rural Scotland as a place they believe they are less likely to get caught.
“This places a heavy toll on our rural communities and especially on businesses that are already struggling due to the pandemic.
“We want to speak to politicians and government and see what more can be done to prevent these incidents rather than accepting that we have to deal with the clean-up afterwards.
“The vast majority of people access our countryside in a responsible and caring manner but the actions of the minority is placing too heavy a burden on these areas.”
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