Scotland now the target of rural crime wave

The rural crime wave that has swept the country is now hitting Scotland with considerable force, leading to an “alarming, developing situation”, according to the industry’s main insurer, NFU Mutual.

The company has appealed to farmers to make security a priority now that organised gangs of rural thieves and livestock rustlers have moved their focus to Scotland. It is believed there are now “easier pickings” north of the border since farmers in England and Wales have improved security and made illegal activities more difficult.

NFU Mutual chairman, Richard Percy, said the estimated cost of theft from Scotland’s farms in 2011 rose to £1.79m, an increase of 45% on the 2010 figure. Livestock rustling in Scotland also rocketed, with the cost of claims increasing by 165% in 2011 to £250,000.

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show, Mr Percy said the rise in Scotland was in sharp contrast to the position for the whole of the UK, which saw rural crime fall by 11% last year.

He said: “These are organised criminals. There have been worrying increases in crime rates in Cumbria and these are people who do not respect borders. They will be moving here next.”

He added that the company was committed to reducing the cost of claims. To help promote good security and reduce claims, the Mutual is offering a range of premium discounts of up to 27.5% to farmers who fit approved security measures, including CESAR registration, immobilisers and tracker devices.

NFU Scotland vice-president, Allan Bowie, who farms in Fife, said he had personally had a quad bike stolen, and warned of the dangers of livestock rustling.

He said: “It’s a major concern that these animals are clearly getting into the food chain somehow. We are trying to show consumers that we have traceability, but these animals are being sold on back streets after being illegally killed and consumers will be eating this food. It’s not good.”

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