Brian Monteith: Bins are Edinburgh's Disgrace these days
There was a time when our great city '“ and it is a great city that is getting even better by the day '“ had enough sense of civic pride to kick its officials and politicians up and down the road if they did not perform to the best of their abilities.
Edinburgh always had a reputation for being rather reserved and considered, prudent and circumspect. Unfairly, in my opinion, it has been seen as rather stuck up and above itself – and yet as anyone who knows its history and has read about the Porteous Riot, Jenny Hawe and the public executions would know, it has been a tumult of scepticism, if not outright rebellion.
We have had our fair share of radicals, had poverty mixed against great wealth in the same close – as well as lucid and innovative world-changing philosophers.
And yet now, when we can book flights to exotic destinations on our phones and eat international cuisine only bettered in the UK by the world’s capital of London, those assigned cannot seem to collect our bins to the satisfaction of those who pay their taxes to make this city tick.
Let us not beat about the Whin Bush. There was a time, until recently, when every child born in the city knew that Edinburgh’s Disgrace was the Parthenon on top of Calton Hill – the “Greek” memorial to the defeat of Napoleon that was never completed because the public subscription ran out of funds.
Today Edinburgh’s Disgrace is not its roads – although they come very close to earning that infamous title – no, it is the sordid, sickly, suppurating sight of Edinburgh’s waste bins going uncollected and fermenting into a heap of bile, putrescence and filth.
They are not isolated incidents – they are everywhere. Their state is not due to the time of year – overloaded bins are commonplace and now an excepted fact of living in Edinburgh.
It is, frankly, amazing that we do not have a plague of rats, spreading their filth and causing public disease.
Maybe the plague of urban foxes keeps them down?
That’s all right, we can employ council Gestapo to ensure we don’t smoke in pubs or serve sour milk in cafés – but hold the council’s own refuse collection service to account? Why no, never. The council’s own dictum is public services are good – even when they badly go wrong – but private misdemeanours are always bad.
The photos printed in this paper act as evidence, along with the logging of failed collections by local residents and the constant complaints. They count for naught.
There is only one solution. Privatise all the collections and put the council in charge of kicking the behinds of the bosses who fail to meet public health targets. Turn public good/private bad on it head and suddenly the council bosses will be relishing in the fun of making sure the private companies deliver (or, rather, collect). It’s easy, really. For the ghosts of Adam Smith and David Hume, Edinburgh’s Disgrace is our refusal to see it.