SNP have the funds to resolve refuse strikes - Sue Webber
As Edinburgh’s SNP and Labour politicians desperately sought anyone but themselves to blame for the mounting piles of rubbish on our streets, it was heartening to see a practical plan from the Conservative group to clear up the filth has been accepted.
That Edinburgh has become a stinking midden during the bin strike brought shame on us all, and it says something about the rest of the city’s representatives that at yesterday’s council meeting it was left to the Conservatives to back community-spirited solutions to clear the streets of waste and tackle the serious threat to health.
Thanks to my colleagues, officers will now be able to take up offers of help to put out and empty extra bins and service emergency skips.
We are only just leaving one public health emergency behind this one was entirely avoidable. The SNP government had the resources to fund a better pay offer and head off the strike but even so, Edinburgh’s new Labour-Lib Dem council had enough notice to put effective measures in place to mitigate the worst impacts, without the need for yesterday’s last-minute agreement.
My communal waste bins were not emptied as scheduled the weekend before the strike, so when it started on August 18 they were already overflowing. Whether deliberate to maximise the impact of the stoppage or not, late collections are the hallmark of a service cut to the bone by an SNP-Labour coalition over the last decade; inefficient shift patterns, reduced frequency, and increasing reliance on public social media reports instead of proper supervision have stripped resilience from the system.
The new administration had more interest in backing strikers than serving the public, with the transport and environment convener merrily chirping to one councillor “you will be delighted I got you a day off” after forcing a vote to suspend his committee last week in “solidarity”, turning an opportunity to discuss managing the crisis into a personal virtue-signalling platform.
Edinburgh Council has been woeful in handling this crisis, but no-one should be fooled into thinking the left-wing SNP group would have done anything different, and now the strike is spreading to SNP-led councils the likes of Edinburgh MSP Angus Robertson won’t pin blame on administrations they control.
Instead, they will just try to blame Westminster, despite this week’s Scottish Government expenditure report showing once again that public spending is so much higher in Scotland than England, £1,963 more per head than the UK average, according to Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander institute.
Yet English councils have been able to offer pay settlements which dwarf those tabled here ─ a flat £1925 compared to £900-£1250 here ─ much to the dismay of Scottish unions. No bottomless pit of money, said First Minster Nicola Sturgeon this week, but her pit is far deeper than everywhere in England except London.
We had an SNP administration in Edinburgh presiding over the degrading of key public services for the past five years while an SNP-controlled Scottish executive starved it of cash, and as the SNP controls the umbrella organisation representing all Scottish Councils in national bargaining the ball is entirely in its court.
Nationalists love to claim they speak for Scotland, and if talk was currency, we would be the wealthiest place on earth.
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians