The cost of rural crime in Scotland has risen by 44% with organised gangs targeting farm machinery and sheep.
NFU Mutual’s annual report revealed the theft of high-value tractors, quad bikes and livestock cost £2.3m in 2019.
Although Scotland saw the highest percentage increase across the country, it remains below the UK average.
Across the UK as a whole, rural theft cost £54m – a 9% increase on the previous year and the highest cost recorded in eight years.
For the second year running, the sharp rise was driven by thefts of farm vehicles.
Although the coronavirus lockdown resulted in an initial reduction in thefts overall, sheep rustling rose almost 15% year-on-year at the height of the pandemic in April.
NFU Mutual believes the stock was stolen for slaughter and processed outside of regulated abattoirs before illegally entering the food chain.
Farmers also had to deal with an influx of walkers on their land, and reports of dog attacks on farm animals also rose.
In addition, incidents of fly-tipping waste increased in rural areas while local authority recycling centres were closed.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said as well as the financial cost, the crimes also have a serious effect on the mental well-being of farmers who “work long hours and often in isolation”.
She added: “Rural crime is like a wave as organised criminality spreads through our villages, farms and fells, affecting everyone in the countryside.
“Now, as the economic impact of the pandemic begins to bite, we are concerned that criminal activity could escalate – making it more important than ever that we work together to stem the tide.”
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