STREET-SWEEPING “armies” have been deployed to clean up Edinburgh’s grimy pavements throughout the Festival – but are unable to confront the litterbugs.
The 75-strong battalion has been enlisted to wage a war on rubbish as the city’s population swells with tourists during August.
But they are barred from issuing fines or challenging litter louts – even if they witness people blatantly flouting the law – because the penalties have to be meted out by the city’s environmental wardens.
Orange-clad agency staff will instead patrol the streets in high-visibility vests armed with wheelbarrows, litter pickers, brushes and bin bags as part of a crackdown down on rubbish-strewn hotspots.
Edinburgh resident Francesca Saunders, who founded People Against Litter (PAL), said the new recruits should be given powers to fine people.
“We all know that it’s illegal to drop litter so the people who are being paid to tidy up should have the same powers as a warden,” she said. “Half the problem is that Edinburgh is so littered because people are allowed to get away with it.
“It’s fantastic that they are sending extra people out there, but more money should be spent on litter prevention rather than cure.”
Extra bins have been installed across the city – including George Street, Waterloo Place and Calton Hill – while 25 super-sized waste containers will be placed around Portobello and the Meadows.
The cleaning team has received health and safety training including advice on how to deal with items such as needles.
Keiran Restorick, 20, who will pound the pavements around Leith Street, Elm Row and Blenheim Place, said the litter-picking force should be introduced year-round.
“You often do your beat and then walk round and there’s more litter again,” he said.
“I think they should do this all year round. It’s a lot of work.
Environment leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said she hoped to strike a balance between ensuring tourists felt welcomed into the city and keeping Edinburgh’s streets clean. “There is no doubt the influx of tourists and other members of public making the most of the city have an impact on our surroundings,” she said.
She added: “I’m sure our new cleaning force will do a great job.”