Gina Davidson: We’re rubbish at tackling littering

City centre streets failed to meet national standards. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
City centre streets failed to meet national standards. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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LITTER is a small thing in the grand scheme of life.

When children are being killed in Gaza, when passenger planes are being shot from the sky in eastern Europe, when the future of the country we live in is in doubt, when the thousands of lives lost in the First World War are being commemorated, the problem of discarded sweetie wrappers and overflowing bins seem as ephemeral as a sodden Fringe flyer lying in the gutter.

But like cute little quirks in a partner which can quickly become hated mannerisms, the dropping of litter, the overflowing bins of rubbish, the scattering of debris in the city centre infuriates many, many people. For them, Auld Reekie remains as an apt a moniker for the city as it ever did.

No-one, at least no-one over the age of 30, likes seeing the dregs of our eating habits in our busy lives scattered on the ground, or the flotsam and jetsam that collects in pockets and handbags being discarded like wedding confetti. Yet apparently littering is, at least according to a Scottish Government campaign, our dirty little secret.

Not in Edinburgh’s city centre. There’s nothing secret about the problem. The Keep Scotland Beautiful brigade are not backwards in coming forwards to let us know about it. Edinburgh’s central streets haven’t passed one of its annual surveys of cleanliness since it began in 2011.

Its most recent report this week again showed that Edinburgh failed to meet national standards. Much of the problem is to do with the number of pubs, restaurants and other good-time places which help make the city centre vibrant, but whose litter and bins are collected by private contractors so the council gets to body swerve some of the blame.

But not all. How often have you looked for a bin in which to shove an empty crisp packet to be confronted by a wasp-attracting midden? How often have you seen an environmental warden hold someone to account for littering and slap them with a fine? How often have you seen an environmental warden?

However, while the council is apparently focusing resources to womble around the city centre tidying up the rubbish, especially during Festival time, the problem does not entirely lie with the local authority – it lies with all of us.

Who dares to tell people to pick up their trash these days? I did recently while spending the day at Aberdour’s Silver Sands with my kids, but only because I felt safe enough to do so. A group of teenage girls had got up to move on and left wrappers lying behind them. I asked one of them to clean it up – she did, but reluctantly. Had they been teenage boys I might have got a mouthful of abuse, or perhaps they’d have been shamefaced about it.

I find it hard to understand why there are generations younger than me who weren’t brought up with the idea that littering is a Bad Thing. Yet if you see the aftermath of concerts like T in the Park, or even a hot day at Portobello beach, you see the detritus of human behaviour left behind – and a seagull problem. Why is it such a hardship for people to put rubbish in a bin, or even take it home with them and put it in their own?

Why do they feel that they have the right just to chuck what they don’t want into the street? Why do they want to live, work, walk around in a dump?

The days of gardyloo are long gone, but so to it seems are those of the Wombles. Perhaps they are the one set of stars from the BBC in the 1970s it is time to rehabilitate.

Athletes shouldn’t fade from view

THE glory that was the Commonwealth Games has gone, scuttling off to a sunnier, shinier place without a backward glance, leaving like a young lover who’s woken up free from a hangover and realised there are warmer embraces out there.

I feel bereft that there’s no-one to cheer on TV, that a quick rail trip west might result in bumping into a world-class athlete.

It was a similar feeling when the London Olympics were over – but at least we had the Commonwealth Games to look forward to. All that sporting excellence just vanishes and we will likely hear little of the medal winners until the next big event. That is wrong. They deserve our support – particularly the UK athletes and competitors – more often.

What a shame there’s not a public broadcaster unconcerned about viewing figures but just eager to screen what people – even if it’s a minority – want to see.

Salmond finally starts winning over women

THOUSANDS of words have been written since Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond stepped down from their lecterns on Tuesday night. Indeed you might not want to read any more about “the great debate” between the Yes and No camps and who did, or did not “win”.

But what was interesting was the polling afterwards. While the figures definitely suggested that Darling came out trumps, the women who were asked seemed to warm to Salmond – a move which may well worry the Better Together campaigners as the First Minister has long had a problem in his wooing of the female vote.

Even more revealing was the Evening News’ readers poll which saw undecideds fall from 17 per cent to just five per cent, with the majority 6.9 per cent going to the Yes side, while the Nos gained a further 5.6 per cent of support, still leaving them behind on 40.2 per cent to the Yes 54.1 per cent.

Those figures go against every national poll, perhaps underlining the change in voting patterns in Edinburgh in recent years from Labour and Liberal Democrat to SNP.

Of course the only poll which really counts is on September 18, so to have your say in that one, make sure you’re registered to vote. Nothing worse than getting a government or result you didn’t vote for – as Messrs Darling and Salmond were at great pains to point out.

Monkeying around

FESTIVAL time is here and I’ve already been to see a show – which is one up on last year. If you get the chance try and catch Nina Conti. She’s very clever, very funny and so is her monkey.