The Scottish Government has been criticised for “total inaction” on livestock worrying after it emerged the largest fine handed out for the offence north of the border was just £500.

Meanwhile, the number of livestock-worrying incidents across Scotland has more than doubled over the last decade, according to information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.

Fines information has revealed that offending owners would likely face harsher penalties if they vandalised a car than if their dog kills or injures a farm animal.

170 incidents in 2017-18

In 2007-8, there were 81 offences recorded under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

Official figures disclosed to Scottish Conservative MSP Peter Chapman show as many as 170 incidents this year, although this is a slight decrease since last year.

The Highland council region witnessed the most crimes of this kind in the last 10 years with 186 dog attacks on farm animals recorded.

This was followed by 142 incidents in Chapman’s native Aberdeenshire, which saw offending covered by the Act hit a five-year high in 2017.

Earlier this year, North East region MSP Chapman spoke in support of the ‘Take a Lead’ campaign which called for legislative changes, but has become frustrated by the lack of action by the SNP Government.

In June, Emma Harper MSP promised to put forward a private members’ Bill to tackle the issue.

However, Chapman believes existing legislation could be strengthened while farmers are “waiting patiently” for the Bill to appear.

Chapman said: “There have been dog attacks this year in Cults, Netherley, Peterhead – right across my constituency.

“These figures show livestock worrying is not going away, and I believe that many incidents will go unreported.

If someone vandalised a car or other private property, their fine could be much higher. That’s a kick in the teeth for farmers who can literally be robbed of their livelihood.

“I believe all dog owners must be aware of the harm an out of control dog can cause, and reckless dog owners should be punished. That may not require a whole Bill, rather strengthening of existing powers.

“In the meantime, more sheep and cattle are being killed, livelihoods damaged and reckless dog owners are walking away without punishment.”

In March, an Argyll farmer had 17 of his ewes savaged in Scotland’s worst livestock attack in recent memory.

And in October, an Angus farmer suffered a significant loss to his flock of pedigree Beltex ewe lambs following a dog attack which left seven injured and one dead.