A BUSINESSMAN has been jailed for four years for masterminding an “impressive and sophisticated” cannabis farm.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard Scott Murdoch, from Hillside in Patna, was the brains behind the East Ayrshire-based operation.

The court was told the 37-year-old was the owner of Doon Valley Construction and brought in more than £600,000 a year from building contracts.

But the building boss had been secretly growing cannabis plants with a value of between £87,000 and £130,000 in a lock-up in Bankwood, Galston for more than a year.

Married dad-of-two, Murdoch denied the farm was his, but a jury found him guilty during a trial last month.

Murdoch returned to Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last week for sentencing and his solicitor Ms Houston told the court her client “did not agree” with drug dealing.

She said: “You will see he has denied the offences. He has told me people who get involved in drug dealing profit from the misery of others and he does not agree with this at all.”

She pleaded with Sheriff Iona McDonald to “be lenient” for the sake of the employees of the building boss.

She said: “ He’s always had a very strong work ethic. He’s been running his own company, Doon Valley Construction, bringing in £600,000 per year, but he is the main individual who keeps the company going.

“He has been managing to keep some of his existing jobs going from prison. The business could continue to run potentially for about three months but he does not know if it could go any longer which would lead to his employees losing their jobs.

“A community disposal is available to him. I would ask you to be as lenient as possible.”

Murdoch’s friends and family gasped in disbelief and burst into tears as Sheriff McDonald told him jailed him for four years due to the “the scale of the operation”

“In these circumstances, it’s my view a custodial sentence is the only appropriate sentence.

“In this case you were involved with a sophisticated operation. In fact it was described as “impressive” (by law enforcement).

“Taking into account that you are a first offender, I am imposing a sentence of four years imprisonment.”

Docherty was sentenced to four years for producing a controlled drug, three years for supplying the drug and one year for stealing electricity. All sentences will run concurrently.

Sergeant Iain Farmer, from East Ayrshire’s Priority Policing Team Police, welcomed Murdoch’s jail sentence.

He said: “This large scale production of cannabis was a very sophisticated operation and this conviction will have an impact on those involved in the production and supply of cannabis.

“Criminal activity such as this will not be taken lightly and we hope this will serve as a warning to those who partake in this vile industry. We remain focussed in deterring such criminal activity within our communities.

“We could not have done this without the information we receive from members of the public, the majority of whom do not want drugs on their streets.

“We would continue to encourage the public to come forward and speak to police if they have any concerns or information. You can be reassured that we will act on any information we receive.”