There is little doubt that Edinburgh has a cleanliness problem.
Surveys can report what they like (the city was this week awarded the nation’s cleanest city by Keep Scotland Beautiful), but the evidence is obvious for all residents to see. And our tourists regularly report how delightful – but disappointingly dirty – the centre of Scotland’s capital is.
So, moves by Edinburgh City Council to give more officials power to fine those who litter must be welcomed.
What right-minded citizen isn’t frustrated when they see children and adults dropping litter in the street or tossing it from a car window? Whether it’s a cigarette butt or an empty crisp packet, it is treating our beautiful capital city as a litter bin. And we all lose from that.
Education, of course, will remain important. But there also needs to be enforcement.
Our current 40 litter wardens do a good job but there is a limit to what they can do.
So in these cash-strapped times handing other officials the power to issue on-the-spot fines will widen the enforcement network at small cost.
The questions that remain are about how this will work in practice.
The council has already issued stab vests to litter wardens after threats from those they issued fines to. This is not practical for all staff – so how do we ensure their safety?
What about training? Approaching an offender in the street requires the correct manner to avoid inflaming the situation. And staff will need to be completely sure about the legal situation if they are to explain themselves to the public.
And what about payment? If binmen and parking wardens are included in the new Keep Edinburgh Tidy initiative will they not merit or demand additional recompense for this? The unions are likely to demand so.
Much work remains before this intriguing idea can hit the streets.