Rural homeowners are being urged to ensure they maintain the perimeter security fencing around their properties following a rise in fuel thefts.

Insurance firm NFU Mutual has issued the alert because its recent Rural Crime Survey - taking in the claims received through its 300 branches in rural towns and villages - indicates that domestic fuel is the sixth most commonly stolen item from the countryside, the Stornoway Gazette reported.

Given that the cost of domestic heating oil has risen by a massive 70 per cent in just the last three months, the NFU fears that the scarcity of oil over the festive period means fuel theft will get worse.

The business has urged homeowners to deter thieves by "installing and using lockable gates" and by maintaining boundaries and perimeter fencing.

Other measures it advised employing include fitting a locking cap to fuel tanks, checking oil levels regularly, keeping outbuildings locked, and noting down the registration numbers of any suspicions vehicles.

Recently, the British Transport Police issued an alert in South Wales over the theft of metal, which it described as "endemic".ADNFCR-3337-ID-800309490-ADNFCR