Edinburgh bin strikes: John Swinney "deeply regrets" inconvenience dispute caused in Edinburgh

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said he “deeply regrets” the inconvenience caused to people in Edinburgh by the recent bin strike.

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His comment in the Scottish Parliament came as the city council said the operation to clear the mounds of rubbish which built up during the 12 days of industrial action at the nd of last month was more or less complete.

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In a statement, Mr Swinney said he was pleased a settlement had been reached last week on council workers’ pay. “As a result of our intervention, and the hard work of the unions and their members, the pay rise proposed for the lowest paid was significantly increased – with awards in excess of 10 per cent, while the increases for the most well-off were capped at £3,000.”

But warned the money to pay for it would have to come from savings elsewhere.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said there had been “one word missing” from Mr Swinney’s statement – sorry. “Sorry to the people of Edinburgh and Scotland for the impact which the strikes have had on their lives especially here in the Capital where waste was left to pile up in the streets for 12 days during our showcase Edinburgh Festival. Year on year, cuts to council’s budget have limited their ability to address local issues. Just this year, the local government budget was cut by £251 million in real terms.”

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In response Mr Swinney said: “I deeply regret the inconvenience which was experienced by members of the public in Edinburgh over the disruption to refuse collection, as I regret it in other parts of the country.”

But he went on to accuse Conservative representatives on the local government umbrella organisation Cosla of playing politics. “I think the ability to address the issue and avoid industrial action would have been helped if Conservative leaders in Cosla, when the government put more money on the table, hadn’t offered a 3.5 per cent increase to workers, as opposed to the 5 per cent which the government had made it possible to be funded.

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Council leader Cammy Day says most of the rubbish has now been cleared.

“So, the playing of politics by Conservative leaders on Cosla directly caused the industrial action in the city of Edinburgh and Conservative leaders should be ashamed of themselves.”

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Bin workers began clearing the piles of refuse from the streets when they returned to work after the strike on Tuesday last week. And council leader Cammy Day said the task had been largely completed. He said staff had worked overtime where necessary and contractors had been used to help clear some of the backlog.

But he said: “Our waste and cleansing teams have been working extremely hard to get the city back to looking its best since the end of the strike, collecting more than 4,500 tonnes of waste last week alone and returning kerbside collections to normal.

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"Across the city most of the communal bins have been picked up by the council’s teams doing their job. No-one is going to be claiming huge amounts of overtime.

“Contractors have helped to clear some of the residual waste. It has taken just over a week to get the city back to normal.”

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Dalkeith-based contractors NWH said it was proud of its staff who had worked across several locations to help clear the streets.

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