ONE of Scotland’s most famous freshwater lochs could become a protected wild swimming hotspot if a bid by the Scottish Greens to see it given designated bathing water status gets the go-ahead.

Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross is probably most famous for being the site of Mary Queen of Scots's last prison escape, inspiring an eponymous film starring Margot Robbie.

It is also home to NatureScot’s National Nature Reserve, a 13-mile heritage trail, and RSPB reserve which sees upwards of 20,000 visiting pink footed Geese swelling its bird life to around 36,000 every year.

However, in the last year, it has been plagued by rising levels of toxic blue-green algae blooms across parts of its 3600 acres of water, leading to it being closed off during peak tourist season when visitors, bathers and dog walkers are out in force.

Toxic blue-green algae bloom - a bacteria called cyanobacteria - at its worst can kill wild animals, livestock and domestic pets and cause problems for humans.

Potential causes of the bloom are being studied, including treated sewage from two waste-water treatment plants, runoff from local agriculture and farm fields, and naturally occurring phosphorus exacerbated by rising temperatures.

And now Mark Ruskell, Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, is calling for the loch to be granted designated bathing status to facilitate action on suspected pollution.

Commenting, Ruskell said that “all too often we are seeing the warning signs going up of this horrible and potentially fatal bloom”, adding: “All the indicators are it’s being allowed to get worse”.

He continued: “Instead of people being able to make the most of the waters as a wild swimming hotspot or being able to use paddle boards and canoes respectfully, mindful of its role as a bird and nature reserve, we all too often see the warning sites going up to stay out.

"The deadline for applying to Sepa for bathing water status is March, and we need to show exactly how well-loved and used Loch Leven is.

"I'd love to hear from everyone who swims at and uses Loch Leven to let me know exactly which parts of the shoreline we should look to have as designated spots.

“By cleaning up the waters, by ensuring even greater monitoring and remedial work, then it would transform the health of the loch allowing locals and visitors alike to benefit from this amazing body of water within easy reach of their homes.

He went on to say that it “cannot be right that we stand by and do nothing when all the evidence is clear that our mental and physical health benefits from being engaged with nature”.

He added: “There are also potential good economic knock-on effects for some local businesses, nature charities and the wider area as a whole, in the same way we see places like the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond benefit.

“Loch Leven, with all its history of Mary Queen of Scots, the winter curling Bonspiels and its key role in protecting our nature and biodiversity, deserves to be afforded all the protection available to us, and I hope people will work with me in achieving this.”