Edinburgh's graffitied, litter-strewn streets need a good scrub – John McLellan
What’s a bit of litter if you don’t have a roof over your head or anything to eat?
So perhaps the revelation that over a third of streets in the north-east of Edinburgh have fallen below an acceptable standard of cleanliness is a First World problem compared to what’s happening in Afghanistan, Haiti or Tigray.
Maybe our gripes are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but this is not a disaster area but a World Heritage site and a premium international cultural and educational centre, so expectations are commensurately higher.
Further, the bargain is if we are compelled by law to pay for the upkeep of our surroundings, it’s not unreasonable to demand that those expectations should be met, and the absence of economic and political collapse should mean we get what we pay for.
The Keep Scotland Beautiful environmental charity’s surveys show city-wide cleanliness fell from 89 per cent in 2017 to 82 per cent now, but the north-east, including my Craigentinny & Duddingston ward, has plunged to just 64.3.
The council points to improvements in the two years prior to the pandemic and positive comparisons with Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, and general downward trends nationally, with the blame put on staff shortages.
But the dramatic slump in places like Leith, Lochend, Northfield and Craigmillar compared to the rest of the city is blamed on the higher population density, as if this is something new.
Whatever the reason, residents in these areas are receiving a poorer service than elsewhere in Edinburgh but are paying the same council tax. Is there any hint that non-delivery will result in a rebate? Not a chance; council tax is going up and so is the garden bin charge by a whopping 40 per cent.
The worst-affected areas are some of the city’s most deprived, and it’s all very well imploring people to use bins or take litter home when it’s clear the most acute problems are with overflowing communal bins in residential streets.
We all know Covid has put an enormous strain on the health service and the economy, but as lockdown cleared the streets of workers and tourists alike it was too much to expect that street maintenance could actually have been easier. Instead, the council grabbed Scottish government cash and deployed its resources to litter our streets with cones and wands.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the opportunity to develop London Road into a proper eastern gateway to the city centre, but a walk along it today will reveal a graffitied, overgrown, litter-strewn picture of council neglect.
Again, it’s not as if this is something new because I’ve raised it many times and each time the answer is the same; it’s too difficult and it’s not a priority.
Now the First Minister says there are “grounds for hope” that remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted on August 9, so dare we hope there is a plan to get the city back in order?
Of course, the authority was quick off the mark with a plan to keep the hazardous lane dividers for another 18 months at least, but not to give the city a damn good scrub.