'COMMUNITIES in Fife will be aware of a triple blight of litter, fly-tipping and ‘dirty camping,’ causing unnecessary anxiety for those who live in affected areas and hitting our tourism industry.

Although the offenders involved in these incidents are small in number, their behaviour has disproportionately large implications and costs for the communities they choose to target, and for the nation too. Whether it is the discarded litter strewn about the streets and green spaces in our towns, or the deposits of fly-tippers and problem campers who despoil our rural beauty spots, there is understandable growing anger about the damage being inflicted.

Communities are also aware that fly-tipping is an escalating problem – it can quickly attract other opportunistic dumpers. Residents want meaningful action to be taken, but the biggest challenge is what can be done?

The police, environment agencies, local authorities and local communities have desperately tried to address the problem, but the detection of the culprits and, perhaps most importantly, the enforcement of by-laws, is proving extremely difficult. It is time for that to change.

I believe that an overhaul of the current national legislation may be needed. Following a deluge of letters, complaints and a public petition, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will now decide whether a full investigation on the current legislation should be carried out.

Councils need more ability and resources to tackle these issues. I strongly believe we should go along with my colleague, Margaret Mitchell MSP’s plan to increase the use of Community Payback Orders for those who fail to pay fines. At the moment, anyone convicted of fly-tipping faces a fine of £200 up to £40,000 but those fines are rarely handed out and even more rarely paid.

If a fine is not paid, a Community Payback Order should be imposed, including an unpaid work element of clearing up a fly-tip incident.

The Scottish Conservatives have also suggested that the default on-the-spot fine for anyone caught littering should be increased to £100. Research has shown that littering across Scotland is at its highest for a decade, so, clearly, a strong deterrent is needed.

The current fine for littering is £80. Increasing it to £100 would make out litter deterrence the toughest in the UK and it would send out a strong message that littering in Scotland is unacceptable.

A key factor in all of this is local communities adopting a zero-tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour. One route to follow would be to roll out the multi-agency approach adopted by Perth and Kinross Council, which involves the police working with countryside rangers and local communities and has seen the development of a communication campaign to promote good behaviour. I believe the only way to tackle these issues is for community involvement and an increase in deterrents'.