Police in Ayrshire have issued 18 fixed penalty notices to individuals flouting new coronavirus rules.

Across Scotland cops handed out 144 fixed penalty notices under new legislation underpinning the important guidance between Friday, March 27 and Wednesday, April 1.

Fines were issued to those ignoring new regulations on social distancing designed to save lives and protect the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ayrshire was the third highest region in Scotland for breaking lockdown rules - with Glasgow (46) coming out on top and the North East (20) coming second.

The Chief Constable said: “People recognise that it is their duty to adhere to these guidelines to protect their fellow citizens, ease the strain on the health service, and collectively save lives.

“Everyone must contribute to the national effort to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and I am grateful to the vast majority who have made significant changes to their daily habits and routines.

“I expect the high levels of co-operation to continue as awareness and understanding of the guidance increases. Stay indoors, stay safe, protect the NHS, and save lives.

“The Police Service of Scotland will continue to play its part, engaging with people, establishing their individual circumstances and explaining the risks to public health of failing to comply with guidance.

“Officers and the public must take a common sense approach to this unique emergency.

“We will always encourage compliance but, as a last resort, we will use the enforcement powers which are in place. 

“I am clear that policing in Scotland gains its legitimacy and authority from the consent and support of the public. Everything we do will be done in a fair, reasonable, and proportionate manner.”

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. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 allow officers to close businesses and premises which flout the government’s 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.

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.”