Nick Cook: Bird-brained approach to Edinburgh gulls

Gulls nesting in urban areas The gulls are known to aggressively swoop on residents, pets and tradesme. Picture: Neil Hanna
Gulls nesting in urban areas The gulls are known to aggressively swoop on residents, pets and tradesme. Picture: Neil Hanna
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In addition to the serious fiscal ­decisions debated and decided, the council’s annual budget ­meeting typically provides the sort of high political drama seen in the City Chambers only once a year.

Councillors of all stripes seek to ­ruffle a few feathers and stick in an ­ideological boot or two, as we ­outline our respective spending and ­saving priorities for the year.

Conservative environment spokesman Councillor Nick Cook

Conservative environment spokesman Councillor Nick Cook

In this respect, last week’s Edinburgh City Council budget meeting didn’t disappoint.

But, the budget is also an important opportunity for opposition councillors to highlight particular local issues of ­concern and seek funding to help address them.

In this regard, I called for the council to provide funding for a gull de-nesting programme.

The issue was raised as – particularly in the summer months – residents of many areas like Bruntsfield, Merchiston and Morningside contact the council regarding aggressive gulls nesting in urban areas.

The gulls are known to swoop on ­residents, pets and tradesmen, in ­addition to creating noise nuisance.

De-nesting carried out at the onset of the season provides means of deterring urban gulls in a non-harmful manner.

A previous gull de-nesting pilot was funded by the council in 2013. Despite its success, the council chose not to ­continue its funding, although community groups continue to seek action.

While often raised on the doorsteps of Edinburgh, gulls are a problem, not only city-wide, but across the UK.

Research from the University of ­Bristol shows that colonies of urban gulls have more than doubled since the year 2000. It is ­perhaps unsurprising that the matter was even debated in the House of Commons recently.

Gull de-nesting is neither high-brow nor glamorous – I do not believe that many of the priorities of a local council should be.

This makes the light-hearted ­manner in which administration councillors who hold the purse strings ­dismissed the call for a modest resource to tackle this ­problem more disappointing.

But truly local issues such as the ­problem posed by urban gulls are ­serious and they matter.

Indeed, a problem cited annually by local taxpayers is exactly the type of issue Edinburgh City Council should be focusing on.

In this regard, it is worth noting that the prevalence of urban gulls is known to be exacerbated by ­overflowing ­communal rubbish bins – an all-too common sight across the capital. This is a ­further reminder that failure to attach meaningful focus to basic ­service ­delivery, and respond effectively to the needs of local residents, can lead to a wealth of associated problems and increased demands for funding.

Councillor Nick Cook is Conservative environment spokesman at Edinburgh City Council.