Miles Briggs: Litter complacency will damage local economy

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‘No-one wants to live in a city where wardens are patrolling every single street almost willing unsuspecting residents to drop a chewing gum wrapper, before slapping them with a fine.

But there’s an obvious issue when you compare the hit rates of Scotland’s two biggest cities.

What is the point in having all these litter wardens on the payroll if it does not result in cleaner streets and people being less likely to chuck their unwanted belongings on the 
ground?

The decision has been made to hire these teams, and council tax payers who are funding this deserve to see some kind of evidence of their positive impact.

In the absence of that – with many thinking our streets are actually 
getting dirtier – there should be at least some statistical proof that they are making a difference.

But yesterday’s story in the Evening News showed this not to be the case.

Many residents will be right to wonder why Glasgow has such a better clean-up rate than Scotland’s capital city, which depends on its reputation as a clean and civilised tourist attraction.

Bosses at Edinburgh council must explain why these statistics are so poor, and how the cash spent is justified here.

Glasgow and Edinburgh never like learning lessons from each other, but perhaps the Capital could take a leaf out of its neighbour’s book on this one.

And it’s not just the number of fines handed out which counts, their plain clothed response teams are working hard to catch unsuspecting litter louts.

As one activist pointed out in this newspaper yesterday, having highly visible environmental wardens may be good for some things, but not for a subtle crackdown.

People are always likely to be on their best behaviour when they’re around.

As a Conservative, I’m clearly not going to back a police state where local authority snoopers suspect everyone of littering.

But a higher profile presence on the streets would help awareness, and of course deterrence, meaning that over time it would become more clear to would-be litter droppers and irresponsible pet owners that this kind of behaviour will not be 
tolerated.

No-one’s in any doubt that as you look around Edinburgh, at the buildings and the skyline, it is one of Europe’s outstanding visual cities.

But when you drop your eyes to the ground, that experience is quite different.

The streets are just too dirty, and if we are complacent about this the tourists will start to notice.

That reputation would hit the whole city’s economy, not least hotels, pubs and restaurants.

We’re by no means at disaster level yet, but action has to be taken now to arrest the undoubted decline in the hygiene of our streets.

And it’s not just about crisp bags and burst bin liners in the city centre.

The situation with dog mess has been well documented, but remains utterly unacceptable in our parks and roads around schools.

This is another matter that should be taken on as a matter of urgency.

Of course Edinburgh’s not a filthy city, but it could certainly be a whole lot better, and businesses and Council Tax payers deserve more.”

Miles Briggs is the Scottish Conservative candidate for Edinburgh South