A Cumnock police sergeant has reminded residents to "be sensible" after officers issue 18 fixed penalty notices across Ayrshire for flouting coronavirus regulations.

Across the whole of Scotland, officers issued just 144 fixed penalty notices under new legislation underpinning the important guidance between Friday, March 27, and Wednesday, April 1.

With the vast majority of people complying with social distancing guidelines, officers were required to issue fixed penalty notices where individuals persistently flouted the regulations or refused to co-operate with requests to comply.

Sergeant Ian Harvey, who leads the locality team in Ballochmyle, Cumnock and New Cumnock, said: "People need to think about the nature of their journey in the first instance, and only make them if it's absolutely essential.

"People should not be driving out to rural parks or letting themselves into farmers' fields, especially with dogs.

"Dogs being let off in fields has a significant impact especially at lambing time, it has a major affect on livestock.

"It's important that people taking their daily exercise bear that in mind.

"Be safe, be sensible and abide by the guidance."

The regulations give officers the power to enforce social distancing among the wider public, with the sanction of penalty notices where there has been an offence.

Police Scotland can issue penalty notices of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days, where they have reason to believe there has been an offence under the regulations.

Due to the exceptional nature of these powers, the regulations will be reviewed at least every 21 days to ensure they are still necessary.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 allows officers to enforce the testing of individuals with suspected coronavirus. It also allows for the closure of events, gatherings and premises.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Everyone should be staying at home wherever possible and I am hugely encouraged by the high levels of compliance around the country after the first week of these rules being in force.

“These rules are in place to slow down the spread of COVID-19 which will protect the NHS and save lives. While Police Scotland have powers of enforcement, I expect that these will be used only as a last resort, and that the vast majority of people will use their common sense and play a full part in this country-wide effort.”

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said: “The best way of slowing down the spread of coronavirus is social distancing, so I must thank Police Scotland for working with members of the public to keep them safe and encourage them to comply with these regulations. 

“I would remind everyone that if you do have to leave your house for any of the essential reasons – food, medicine, care, exercise or work, and you absolutely cannot do them at home – then please stay two metres away from people you don’t live with, and keep human contact as limited as possible.”