Edinburgh bin strikes: SNP to blame for Auld Reekie living up to its name through no fault of its own – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

“There were rats! Rats! As big as blooming cats. In the stores…” the old war song goes.
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They may not have been in the stores but they were certainly in the streets and alleyways of the Old Town as my wife Gill and I made our way home from a show on Saturday. With the waste collection strikes, Auld Reekie is sadly living up to her ancient name, through no fault of her own.

The overflowing bins and dumpsters are a blight on our nation’s capital at a time when the eyes of the world are turned to the colour and spectacle of our festivals.

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Venues and performers are busy trying to make up for the last two years of damage and disruption. However the state of the city risks permanent reputational damage to the world’s biggest festival of performing arts. Things are so dire, that several artists started collecting litter voluntarily.

Make no mistake, the blame for this does not lie with striking workers or their unions, nor on this occasion does it reside with the cretinous Conservative government. This mess is singularly the result of the steady erosion of council funding by the SNP and their Green party sidekicks. This is on them and I hope that walking between venues during her many festival appearances, the First Minister feels some sense of shame.

The Scottish Government cut local government funding by £250m this year alone, the latest in a long line of cuts. A disproportionate amount of that has been taken from Edinburgh.

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Despite the simpering excuses of SNP ministers, it’s not a cut they needed to make. In truth, the cash settlement given to the Scottish Government has never been higher, yet the SNP/Green coalition has actively chosen to use more of that cash in the centre and starve off the funding it’s giving to councils.

People pick up rubbish in Edinburgh city centre as cleansing workers take strike action (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)People pick up rubbish in Edinburgh city centre as cleansing workers take strike action (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
People pick up rubbish in Edinburgh city centre as cleansing workers take strike action (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)
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Think of the list of white elephants this government has splurged cash on: papers on independence, the ferries debacle, the growing number of embassies as the SNP play dress-up diplomat on the world stage. All of this cash could have gone to councils, allowing them to settle the very reasonable pay expectations of these key workers and others like them.

The SNP/Green government just don’t trust our councils with either money or decision-making. You want further evidence of this? Just look at the silent power grab which will see control of social care services clawed away from local government and given to remote government ministers and officials.

Parliament returns to session in two weeks’ time and it is essential that we see emergency changes to the Scottish budget to help Scots deal with the cost-of-living emergency. It is sorely needed. When that happens, Scottish ministers must also reverse the quiet erosion of local government funding and allow our local councillors the resources necessary to head off these and other strikes with meaningful pay offers.

This sanitation irritation is happening in the heart of Edinburgh Central, the parliamentary constituency of Culture Secretary Angus Robertson. Angus is one of the SNP’s most senior ministers. He doesn’t need to have brought his specs with him to see that the blame for this fiasco lies squarely at the door of his government.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western