Scotland is gearing up for a big summer. The eyes of the world are on Scotland for our second Year of Homecoming, the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.
The global media will also be focussing on Scotland to cover the independence referendum and beaming our nation into living rooms across the planet.
We are lucky to have such a beautiful country, with a natural environment as a spectacular backdrop for these events, something we should be rightly proud of.
However, all too often people spoil it with litter and flytipping – everything from sweetie wrappers to mattresses. Around 250 million bits of visible litter are dropped each year, and there are at least 60,000 incidents of flytipping.
Not only does this damage the environment and pose a risk to public health, but the cost of tackling littering and flytipping is in the region of £53 million every year – public money that could be better spent elsewhere.
Towards a Litter-free Scotland, our new national litter strategy, aims to significantly reduce the blight of litter, encouraging people to do the right thing and bin it or recycle if possible.
The strategy is backed by a series of actions, including the launch of a new marketing campaign, a 5p charge for single-use bags from October, and the recent increase in fixed penalties for littering and flytipping from £50 to £80 and £200 respectively.
In addition, we will pilot new schemes to reward communities for voluntary clean-ups in local blackspots and encourage ideas to improve the design of products and packaging.
I want people to be proud of the Scotland in which they live and work, with cleaner communities and coastlines that we can all enjoy and take pride in.
With the eyes of the world on Scotland this year, we all want our country to look its very best, and I encourage everyone to play their part in making Scotland a brighter and greener place, now and into the future.
• Richard Lochhead is cabinet secretary for the environment