A PUBLIC body has warned businesses they will meet an "uncompromising" regulator if they try to flout relaxed environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has told firms to focus on protecting the environment over administrative matters amid the spread of Covid-19.

It has recognised that many businesses will be unable to meet all standards due to restrictions during the pandemic but warned against abusing the temporary rule relaxation.

Sepa chief executive Terry A'Hearn said: "We know that all businesses we regulate are trying to operate in extraordinary circumstances.

"We know they are trying to look after the health of their own workforces.

READ MORE: Two die from coronavirus in ‘difficult 24 hours’ for Scottish Government

"We know they may have supply chain and other challenges.

"So, where businesses are unable to fully meet their compliance obligations, they should prioritise conditions which directly protect the environment over those of an administrative nature.

"They should contact Sepa, work closely with us and document the choices and actions they take.

"The positions are a direct response to circumstances no-one wanted to see."

He added: "We ask Scottish businesses to adapt responsibly and we expect the majority will.

READ MORE: EasyJet founder warns airline could ‘run out of money by August’

"Our message is clear: if you try to do the right thing in this next period, you will find a helpful and supportive regulator.

"If you deliberately do the wrong thing, you'll get the uncompromising regulator your behaviour deserves."

The response aims to focus support on food security, provision of clean water and the maintenance of critical infrastructure by helping Scottish businesses adapt.

Sepa regulates 33 sectors of the economy it but it will also use its new philosophy to support 13 critical national infrastructure industries identified by the Scottish Government.

Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell MSP said: "I welcome the pragmatic approach adopted by Sepa at this time of crisis, which recognises the pressure some small businesses are facing.

"It is vital that environmental and public health measures are always given prominence by business and I'm sure the support offered by the regulator will be welcomed.

"While supporting businesses who are trying to do the right thing, it's clear that Sepa will take a much harder line with any business that deliberately flouts environmental laws at this time."

Scotland is in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: http://www.thenational.scot/subscribe. Thanks – and stay safe.