SCOTLAND’S environmental watchdog could gain the power to hand out spot fines of up to £40,000 for green crimes under a planned clampdown on polluters.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) currently has to refer any alleged breaches to procurators fiscal in a lengthy process that involves prosecution through the courts.

However, under proposals, out for consultation, Sepa would be able to issue fines of between £500 to £40,000.

For example, a dry cleaners which failed to report the quantity of solvents it used might face a small fine, while companies illegally burning waste or polluting rivers could face the maximum fine.

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Scotland on Sunday (13 May 2012)