CRIMINALS from as far afield as Aberdeen and Cambridge are travelling to East Lothian to take part in barbaric hare-coursing.

Police say thousands of pounds are changing hands as the illegal blood sport is live-streamed through social media and websites and bets made. And they are urging the public to be on the alert for anyone who could be involved in the activity which, they say, supports serious organised crime.

East Lothian Partnership Against Rural Crime, which was launched earlier this year, has made hare coursing one of its priorities.

They say people travel from all over the United Kingdom to East Lothian to hold hare-coursing events.

Allan McKean, from the partnership, said there had been reports of people coming from Cambridge.

Hare coursing has been illegal for more than a decade in Scotland.

The partnership says it is vital the public realise that it is used to fund serious organised crime and they rely on people to help them crack down on it.

Police Constable Lynn Black urged members of the public to be aware of the activity.

She said: “We rely on members of the public to help us and urge anyone who sees anything suspicious to contact us. We also ask people not to confront those involved themselves. This is an activity which attracts serious organised crime and in which a lot of money is involved.”

The partnership advises people to raise the alarm if they spot tell-tale signs of coursing.

It can be people walking with a number of dogs in a line in fields or a group of vehicles parked in a rural area or beside a farmland gate.

Hare-coursing tends to take place after harvesting.

The partnership advises: “Harecoursers often travel in convoy with vans at the front and rear containing minders.

“If you seen an event taking place we advise you not to approach the participants but contact the police immediately.”

The partnership brings together police and fire services as well as East Lothian Council, the National Farmers’ Union and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

It tackles a wide range of rural crimes.