Edinburgh bin strike is much more messy than it needs to be because of city council politics – John McLellan

That we live in extraordinary times is in no doubt when I find myself in agreement with both SNP MSP Angus Robertson and their local scoutmaster Adam McVey that the filth on Edinburgh’s streets represents a failure of leadership by Edinburgh Council’s administration.

Edinburgh Council could have put skips on the streets during the strike (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Edinburgh Council could have put skips on the streets during the strike (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Despite their earnest efforts to include the Conservative group in their attacks, the blame lies squarely with the Labour-Lib Dem coalition and the senior officers who have done virtually nothing to mitigate the bin strike’s worst effects.

There are two issues at stake, the most obvious being the rubbish piling up on every corner. That is unquestionably the responsibility of the local authority but being in complete lock-step with the striking waste crews means effective interventions to keep the streets clean have not been planned, never mind implemented, in case it’s seen as strike-breaking.

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For a council so in love with reducing car use, it could, for example, have put skips on parking bays in places like the Grassmarket which once full would have been taken away by contractors, rather than leaving pedestrians to pick their way through the detritus and waste rotting feet away from alfresco diners. Instead, their action has been limited to little more than fatuous advice to householders to keep their rubbish inside, or for dog-owners to double up their poop-bags.

Community volunteers could have been recruited, or contractors hired, to sweep up, but with left-wing senior officers and a Labour-led administration, that was never going to happen, not when the posturing Labour transport and environment convener managed to get his committee adjourned last week, wasting everyone’s time and delaying important decisions to show solidarity with the workers on the spurious grounds that he didn’t want council support staff to cross picket lines when some already had.

But then there is the pay dispute itself, and with UK inflation going into double figures who doesn’t have every sympathy with council workers trying to get as good a pay deal as council finances can afford?

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Councils squeezed for years by the SNP are supposed to be grateful for an extra £140m to meet increased pay demands, but by their own admission it’s not enough to meet a five per cent increase, and from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon down the priority is to swerve any responsibility.

Both Messrs Robertson and McVey are happy to peddle the myth that Edinburgh Council can strike a deal, when what we are seeing is targeted, high-profile action in a national dispute and Edinburgh cannot settle this strike on its own because the negotiations are between the unions and the SNP-led local authority umbrella body Cosla.

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It would have been different had the council backed the Conservative group’s repeated proposal to leave Cosla so it could make its own arrangements and save money, but that was met with uproar from Cllr McVey and the other left-wingers.

So, councils under-funded by the SNP-run Scottish Government ─ in receipt of record funding from Westminster ─ must negotiate through an SNP-led association, yet the local SNP would have you believe it’s all someone else’s fault. With millions salted away for an independence referendum which won’t happen, the buck stops with them.

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As usual when it comes to Edinburgh’s basic public services, the people who matter most are ego-driven politicians and residents the least.