Scotland’s litter laws: barbecues, fly tipping and the penalties

Littering is an offence in Scotland and could see you suffering some large consequences (Photo: Shutterstock)
Littering is an offence in Scotland and could see you suffering some large consequences (Photo: Shutterstock)

Make sure you know everything you need to before heading out for the summer

With temperatures soaring in Scotland and the rest of the UK, the public are hitting the outdoors in order to soak up some sunshine.

Eating and drinking outside can create a lot of mess - so, do you know your local littering laws? You could land yourself with more than just a hefty fine if you break them.

Can I have a barbecue in a public park?

According to the management rules for parks and greenspaces issued by Edinburgh City Council, “Lighting barbecues outwith designated barbecue sites, where these are provided, or in areas or in a manner likely to burn or scorch the ground or cause danger or nuisance to other park users or neighbouring residents” are not permitted.

The Meadows - one of Edinburgh’s most popular public parks - does have designated barbecue spaces. It is best to check the rules at your chosen park before lighting your barbecue, as they may differ.

All waste and debris must be cleared away after you’ve finished with your barbecue, otherwise it is classed as littering.

Scottish littering laws - how is littering defined?

In Scotland, there are laws designed to tackle littering and fly tipping.

On the government website, litter is defined as waste which is in the wrong place and can be from either man-made materials or items associated with food.

Fly tipping on the other hand is the action of dumping waste somewhere it shouldn’t be, and can range from something like a bin bag of household rubbish to larger quantities of domestic, commercial or construction waste.

What are the consequences?

Zero Waste Scotland states that littering is a recognised criminal offence in Scotland, and if a person is found guilty of this offence, they can be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £80, or potentially prosecuted and issued a fine of up to £2,500.

Fly tipping is also a criminal offence, but comes with different consequences.

If a person is found guilty of fly tipping, their fixed penalty notice starts at £200, and can escalate to up to a year long prison sentence and a fine of up to £40,000.

This is thanks to The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 which gives the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) this power.

Littering from vehicles is being targeted, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham stating on the government website, “I am committed to bringing forward new legislation as part of the Circular Economy Bill, making it an offence to litter from vehicles.”

With 1,300 bags of rubbish gathered from the sides of the M8 and M9 alone each month, action will be taken as soon as possible under the National Litter Strategy.

What is Scotland doing to tackle litter?

The Scottish government produced a strategy in 2014 to move towards a litter free country.

The National Litter Strategy: towards a litter-free Scotland was launched in June of 2014 and provides guidance for tackling litter.

Keep Scotland Beautiful said, “At the heart of the strategy is prevention: encouraging individuals to take responsibility to ensure litter does not enter the environment in the first place.”

Scotland is also trying to tackle its litter problem by introducing a drinks deposit scheme which will see the public get money back for recycling their plastic bottles.