Comment: We should be a showcase for Scotland

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As Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh has a special responsibility to keep its streets and
 public spaces clean. It should be a showcase for Scotland, presenting itself to the world with the highest standards of cleanliness.

But instead its streets are getting dirtier. Fines for litter and dog fouling have been falling. And in comparison with Glasgow the Capital is – there’s no better phrase for it – falling miles behind.

The latest Edinburgh People’s Survey shows the city streets continue to get dirtier, with dog mess listed as the number one gripe in more than half of council wards.

The capital’s litterbugs are getting off lightly. Figures obtained by the Evening News reveal a stark decline in environmental stewardship.

The number of on-the-spot £80 fines for dropping rubbish has plummeted to just over a third of the 2013-14 level. Each of the Capital’s 35 wardens is handing out on average just one fixed penalty notice for dog fouling every six months. And they are issuing litter fines barely once every three weeks. Now compare this to Glasgow. Last year its 70 wardens hit litterbugs, fly-tippers and careless pet owners with more than 20,000 fines totalling £1.6 million.

It has a dedicated city centre “response team” and eight plain-clothes officers charged with cracking down on dog-walkers who fail to deal with dog mess.

A cash-strapped Edinburgh council might argue it has no money for extra staff. But it could double the number of wardens employed and cover the hiring cost with the additional £1.3 million likely to have been paid out by offenders in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, complaints stretch from the popular tourist destination of the Royal Mile to Leith. According to the Edinburgh People’s Survey, the percentage of residents satisfied with measures to deal with dog fouling has more than halved in six years.

The Capital can learn from Glasgow’s example. Clean streets and healthy public spaces are a basic requirement of modern city life. We need to see more robust enforcement by wardens against litter louts – and sending out teams in plain clothes if necessary.

It’s not rocket science. More fines would help cover the cost of extra wardens. It’s about time we got serious about tackling this blight on our streets.