Comment: Responsible dog owners won’t be put off

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everybody loves a bargain. And when you have a young family to feed, and clean up after, then you probably love them more than most.

So it is hard not to be impressed by the resourcefulness of the new mums who have been taking advantage of their local council’s largesse by grabbing free poo bags to dispose of their children’s nappies. The fact the bags were supposed to be used only for getting rid of dog dirt didn’t matter much to them.

You have to feel for East Lothian Council, though, which has been left handing out tens of thousands of free bags without seeing the results they expected.

Its reaction – introducing a £1 charge for 50 bags – has been criticised as a backward step in tackling the scourge of dog fouling. The thinking being that anything that can be done to encourage people to clear up after their pets is worthwhile.

There is no doubt that the dog dirt that can be found on pretty much every street, park and beach across the country is a massive bugbear for most people. The problem comes down to a selfish minority of owners who simply refuse to behave responsibly.

Their behaviour is deplorable, but is it realistic to think that handing out free poo bags will change their behaviour?

Okay, some decent dog owners might be caught out on occasion without a bag and unable to locate one, so making them available in public places like libraries makes sense.

But how many responsible owners will stop doing the right thing because of a charge that amounts to two pence a bag? The answer must be zero or close to zero.

Far better to charge £1 and use the money it generates to pay for a warden to patrol the most polluted spots ready to dish out £40 on-the-spot fines. That will do far more to clean up the streets.

What must not happen is that the money is siphoned off to pay for other things. That would be a backward step.