Scotland’s environmental watchdog has ramped up its use of unmanned drones to look for breaches of the law, its chief executive has said.
Terry A’Hearn told Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) turned to drones as lockdown restricted the number of site visits that could take place.
Refusing to say how many times the flights have been used, Mr A’Hearn told MSPs fly-tipping has been tackled using the mechanism.
Following a question about fly-tipping from Tory MSP Finlay Carson, Mr A’Hearn said there has “certainly been an increase” in dumping since the lockdown was brought into force.
Describing what was being done to control the practice, Mr A’Hearn said: “I won’t give much detail on some of the things that might lead to enforcement, because I might jeopardise the enforcement.
“We said at the start of the lockdown that we would be using a variety of techniques, we have intelligence relationships with authorities such as the police, we have the capacity to use drones and other techniques – which we had been using previously but we’ve accelerated and used more because we’ve got less ability to get out there.”
Later in the session, Mr A’Hearn said the lockdown had actually shown the watchdog there are more effective ways to ensure compliance.
He said: “We actually think that, because we’ve started doing that a bit more in the last couple of months, there is more effective ways, even than site visits that might give us quite significant new evidence that can really approve our ability to ensure compliance and enforcement.”
The chief executive added the lockdown has not been “a big barrier” but if social distancing carries on for another year then its work will be made “a lot harder”.