A GRAFFITI outbreak which is blighting sites across Inverness risks tarnishing its reputation at the start of the tourist season, frustrated city leaders fear.
The Ness Islands beauty spot is just one location to have been targeted in recent weeks.
Vandals’ "tags" or signatures have also been spray painted across Towerhill, Cradlehall and Dalneigh.
And it appears nowhere is immune, as even a wall near the entrance to Inverness Prison has been tagged, as well as other areas of Crown and Raining’s Stairs.
At the Ness Islands metal litter bins, one of the bridges, a carved wooden signpost at the Island Bank Road entrance and a black electrical junction box have been vandalised.
Councillor Bet McAllister, depute provost and Inverness Central member said she was particularly saddened to hear the Ness Islands had been targeted.
She added: "It is one of our iconic places, a happy place where people like to walk or cycle with the kids or their dog, and it is a great shame to see this form of vandalism, because that is what it is.
"If these people have art in them, surely they can go to a class and express themselves in a different way?
"I would urge anyone who sees this going on to get in touch with the police or council."
Cllr McAllister said the graffiti not only affected the city’s image but was also expensive to remove at a time when money was tight.
"If it is on council property we have to send people out to clean it," she said. "If it is on private property then others have to foot the bill.
"I saw a private wall in Old Edinburgh Road that had been sprayed with graffiti, and that would have been expensive to put right."
A cyclist who lives locally was so disgusted at the islands graffiti he got in contact with the Highland News to highlight his concerns. He did not want to be named but said: "It is a shame that this beautiful place that will have been visited by hundreds over Easter has been hit in this way."
Graeme Ambrose, head of tourism marketing group Visit Inverness Loch Ness, said: "You don’t like to see graffiti anywhere, but especially in places such as the Ness Islands where visitors are walking around. Is is a very popular area and this detracts from it.
"These things come and go and some individuals are going around thinking this is a smart thing to do. It certainly doesn’t enhance the area, that’s for sure."
Cllr Ken Gowans, Inverness South, said: "I have asked Police Scotland to investigate the recent spate of graffiti that has sprung up in the Towerhill and Cradlehall areas of Inverness.
"I would urge anyone with information about it to either get in touch with myself by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Police Scotland on 101.
"I have also been in touch with the community beat police officer about it and issued a plea on Facebook."
Cllr Alex Graham, Inverness West, said he had reported graffiti in Laurel Avenue, Dalneigh, to the council.
He said: "I asked that it be cleaned up as soon as possible because I think if it is dealt with quickly, it tends not to reappear."
Urging people to report incidents immediately, a police spokesman said: "Vandalism is unacceptable no matter what form it takes. It creates unnecessary expense for individuals and organisations.
"Appropriate inquiries will be carried out where incidents are reported to police and where offenders are identified they will be robustly dealt with."
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "Vandalism and or graffiti of council-owned property should be reported to Highland Council by either phoning the Service Centre on 01349 886606 or by using the 24/7 online reporting forms on our website at www.highland.gov.uk/report
"Crimes should be reported to Police Scotland on 101."