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Scots farmers see rural crime surge

CRIME-FIGHTERS: Police in Scotland have seen rising rates of rural offences in the last year.
CRIME-FIGHTERS: Police in Scotland have seen rising rates of rural offences in the last year.

Rural crime cost the Scottish farming industry an estimated £2.6m last year – up 52% from 2020 – according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual.

The insurer’s latest Rural Crime Report for the UK indicates that Scotland showed by far the highest escalation in crime during 2021.

Hot ticket items such as quad bikes and high-value machinery contributed to the sharp rise, as shipping delays and the effects of Covid and Brexit contributed to low supply waiting lists and soaring market values.

The insurer’s analysis shows that livestock theft alone cost the wider UK farming industry £2.4m in 2021, and the report warns that rising food prices make rustling an even more lucrative crime for criminal gangs.

Worrying by dogs also took its toll on the industry with animals worth an estimated £1.5m either injured and killed.

And agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual was valued over £9m last year, with Land Rover Defender owners in particular targeted.

Writing in the report, NFU Mutual chairman Jim McLaren, who farms in Perthshire, said: “With diesel and fertiliser prices soaring and the cost of living crisis biting, it looks likely that we will see rural crime rise in the coming months. Current supply chain shortages mean farmers who suffer a theft are facing delays sourcing replacement equipment which may be vital to carrying out essential farm work.”

NFU Mutual chairman Jim McLaren.

NFU Mutual’s Scotland manager, Mark McBrearty said: “We’re advising rural people to review their security, to help prevent crime and disruption. The good news is that the work of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (SPARC) operates across the whole of Scotland and has a clear strategy to tackle rural crime through visible policing, sharing intelligence and advice, involving farmers and the wider community.”

Scotland’s farmers’ union legal and commercial committee chair, Alasdair Macnab, called on fellow producers to report all cases of rural crime.

He added: “At a national level, we work closely with SPARC to ensure our members concerns are heard and the positive steps we are taking towards reducing rural crime in Scotland continue. At a regional level, we also encourage our members to be as involved as possible with the many regional PARCs now established in Scotland. These are the best platforms to give and receive up-to-date information on criminal activity at a local level.”

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