Midlothian council workers went on a 'killing mission' with banned poison, claims member

Council workers went on a “killing mission” after being allowed to use a banned weed killer, it was claimed this week.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 7:00 am
:Powerful chemicals are needed to kill Giant Hogweed

Midlothian councillors were asked to formally approve the reintroduction of glyphosate weed killer in the county at “restricted spots” two years after they originally banned its use.

Councillors heard that a cross-party of group leaders had agreed to lift the restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, a virtual meeting of elected members heard claims that staff had sprayed wildflower beds and private gardens after the ban was lifted.

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Councillor Colin Cassidy who led the call for the ban in 2019, told the meeting that when group leaders agreed to lift the ban “we went on a killing mission spraying people’s gardens and wildflower areas”.

Urging members to reject the call to reintroduce the herbicide, he said: “I’d like to apologise on behalf of the SNP Group to the people of Midlothian and put on record for my children and my grandchildren that I tried to have this banned.”

Councillors were asked to approve the use of glyphosate in restricted spot applications while working to reduce its use in open spaces and parks.

Exemptions already in place for dealing with giant hogweed and other invasive species would continue.

Councillor Andrew Hardie urged members to accept that it was not practical to introduce an overall ban in the present and commit to working towards one in the future.

He said: “It is important we try to come together to find a compromise where we can have an aspiration in the future to have zero glyphosate but we are not in that position now.”

Glyphosate is a herbicide which has been banned across several European countries and states in America amid concerns about its effect on wildlife and health.

Two US court cases have seen juries rule it caused cancer in recent years, although America’s Environmental Protection Agency has insisted it is not a carcinogen.

Last year, council officials pleaded with elected members to lift the ban, claiming it had led to an increase in complaints from members of the public about weeds growing out of control, causing obstructions and claims people had slipped and fallen on overgrown paths.

At this week’s meeting, the council’s landscape and countryside manager Justin Vernon said that while he had no formal information on recorded complaints, he had dealt with one mother whose son had tripped on weeds and suffered a head injury, adding that she had not lodged a claim against the local authority.

He also said that records were kept of streets where the weed killer was used but that it was not publicly available on the council website, although he would welcome a move to digitalise the information.

Councillor Stephen Curran backed officers’ recommendations to introduce the weed killer under restricted measures, adding additional restraints to highways and lay-bys.

Members voted by nine votes to seven to back officers’ recommendations to allow restricted use of glyphosate weed killers in places where they were the best solution to the problem.

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