Shameless 'neds' have been blasted after spraying graffiti on graves and starting a fire in Irvine’s Old Parish Church Kirkyard. 

The shocking vandalism happened during a Marymass graveyard tour hosted by local historian Billy Kerr.

Amongst the graffiti, the initials 'PH' were spraypainted on one tombstone as well as the wall of the church building.

Irvine West Councillor Scott Gallacher, who was on the tour on Monday, has blasted the “absolute shameless idiots”, while Billy Kerr said it had been an ongoing problem for years.

Cllr Gallacher told the Times: "A group of 9 or 10 boys and girls were at the back wall of the graveyard, quite clearly defacing, scoring, and spray-painting memorials, without any shame, or a care in the world. They only moved away when the tour group was quite literally within ten feet of them, leaving their burning cigarette ends, and empty cans strewn across the grass. 

“The graves of the townspeople of times gone by do not need to be under attack from groups of half-drunk, half-stoned idiot neds.

“To be painting graffiti on any walls is bad enough, to be doing it on memorials within a graveyard is a whole different level of disrespect. This sort of thing is completely beyond the pale, the vandals themselves, and also their families, should be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour."

Billy Kerr said: "It's an ongoing problem really because it's secluded and private, previous problems have been them kicking over the gravestones. 

"It's not even a problem having young ones hanging about there, but it is when they start the spraypainting and kicking stones over.

"On Monday night I later showed four individuals a particular stone in another part of the graveyard and they were lighting a fire.

"It's not a unique problem in Irvine, but it's what do you do about it unless you actually catch them. They did disperse quite quickly.

"A few years ago you would see the police go in most nights, I think that helped but I haven't seen that in a while now."

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “It is always disappointing to receive reports of graffiti wherever it occurs but we’re especially disappointed to learn of the mindless acts of vandalism in a church graveyard.

“We are aiming to remove the graffiti as soon as possible however, because of the historic nature of stonework, we will carry out further investigation and this may require specialist treatment.

“We would urge anyone who has information on those responsible for the vandalism to contact Police.”

Police Scotland were contacted but have not yet confirmed whether the incident has been reported.