Local land managers have noted a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting Loch Clunie, near Blairgowrie, since lockdown measures in Scotland began to be eased last Friday.
This has sparked a huge rise in incidents of vandalism and littering, with trees chopped down and fence posts pulled out to be used for firewood, bonfires lit, bins set alight and mountains of rubbish - including human excrement - left behind.
And in the worst incident yet, estate worker Jimmy Mclean was brutally attacked and stabbed while doing his rounds, checking the land for fires, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The 57-year-old, who also suffered concussion in the assault, was taken to hospital for treatment and is now recovering at home.
Police have been called out to deal with trouble in the area on a number of occasions in recent days.
Now Forneth Estate, Cope Farming Company, Wester Kinloch and Snaigow Estate have written, through membership organisation Scottish Land and Estates, to local Perthshire North MSP and Deputy First Minister John Swinney calling for urgent discussions on how such incidents can be prevented in future.
“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,” said Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates.
“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 fly-tipping.
“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 which 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.”
Investigations into the stabbing are ongoing and police checks in the area are being stepped up.
Police Scotland’s Chief Inspector Graham Binnie, local area commander, said: “We are aware of issues in the Highland Perthshire area and will increase patrols there to continue to provide reassurance to the public, and to prevent any anti-social behaviour.
“The regulations remain that people should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, for exercise or recreation, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done from home.
“We are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to protect the NHS and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.
“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation.”
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