Petition calling on council to cease using pesticides in capital attracts more than 1,700 signatures

The news comes as a growing number of groups in Edinburgh fear that health issues which they and their pets have experienced are linked to the spraying of glyphosate weedkiller.

Members of Pesticide Free Balerno remove weeds by hand.

A petition calling for Edinburgh City Council to stop using weedkillers with pesticides has attracted more than 1,700 signatures.

The news comes as a growing number of groups in Edinburgh fear that health issues which they and their pets have experienced are linked to the spraying of glyphosate weedkiller.

While the petition calling for Edinburgh to be rid of pesticides was formed a year ago by campaigner Jessica Windsor, it has recently experienced a surge in signatures.

The petition says: “Edinburgh City Council use pesticides for weed control on our streets, pavements, parks, playgrounds, around schools, cemeteries and green spaces…

“Many other towns and cities across the world have made the decision to go pesticide-free, using methods such as hot-foam, flame weeding, scraping, acetic acid solution and accepting a certain level of ‘weediness’.

“In the UK, Glastonbury, Lewes, Wadebridge and some London Boroughs are pesticide-free, proving that it can be done…

“We therefore call on Edinburgh City Council to put an end to all pesticide use in all of Edinburgh, using safe alternatives instead, protecting our health and the health of our environment.”

Following successful lobbying efforts by local group Pesticide Free Balerno earlier this year, councillors agreed to stop using glyphosate in the Balerno area this summer.

In exchange, residents have had to take on the task of keeping weeds down themselves.

Now, a new Portobello-based group is planning to lobby the council for similar action.

Members of the Pesticide Free Portobello group have approached the council about the issue and are also sharing signs to be placed in residential windows urging council workers not to spray glyphosate outside their homes.

Annie MacDonald, a member of Pesticide Free Balerno, said: “We were relieved that the council listened to community health concerns in Balerno, safeguarding those with vulnerable immune and respiratory health issues like asthma, which is especially crucial now more than ever.

“We are delighted that other communities now want to follow, safeguard their health and would like the same for their community. By helping and supporting the council positively this can be achieved.

“We notice interest springing up all around the city from Gorgie to Portobello via the Pesticide Free Edinburgh group.

“Many communities have health issues they want to protect and would rather be proactive and remove weeds outside their door than be exposed to this chemical.”

The council’s environment convener Lesley Macinnes says the local authority has already greatly reduced its use of glyphosate.

Also, in the spring/summer of 2021 the council will consider options for a large-scale trial of alternatives to glyphosate, subject to budget approval.

Cllr Macinnes said: “In terms of controlling weeds generally, we take an integrated approach and have greatly reduced our use of glyphosate-based herbicides by using a variety of methods, such as deep cleansing streets, mulching, strimming and hoeing.

“We have also trialled a number of glyphosate-alternative herbicides, hot water and hot foam, and ultimately plan to move away from using glyphosate-based herbicides when an effective and financially viable alternative is found, however for the moment they remain the most effective treatment on roads, pavements and other hard surfaces.”