MSP leads the way in battle against litter

Tory MSP John Scott picks up litter every day as he walks to worK. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Tory MSP John Scott picks up litter every day as he walks to worK. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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HIS high-profile job sees him chairing sessions of the Scottish Parliament as MSPs debate new laws.

But before he gets to work in the mornings, Deputy Presiding Officer John Scott acts as a one-man volunteer litter patrol at one of Edinburgh’s key beauty spots.

He sets off from his St Leonard’s flat with a large plastic bag and walks through Holyrood Park to the parliament, picking up bits of rubbish as he goes.

“I’ve always believed you should leave things better than you find them,” he said.

“It’s a privilege to be able to walk through such a beautiful park. The park staff do a brilliant job, it’s beautifully maintained and the care of the trees and grass and wildlife is exemplary. I feel the least I can do is help to keep it tidy.”

Mr Scott, who is Conservative MSP for Ayr, has been picking up litter in the park for the past ten years, but his good deeds only came to light recently when another MSP met him with his bag of rubbish.

He also collects litter in Ayr, where he is a member of the Ayr Litter Volunteer Network, a group of residents who each commit to clearing up litter in a certain street.

“It becomes a habit – almost an obsession,” he said.

“It dates back to before I came to parliament. My late wife ran an outdoor catering business – marquees for weddings and so on – and just one crisp packet or an empty bottle in the wrong place could spoil the whole effect.

“I arm myself with a plastic bag and pick up any litter as I walk in. I start in St Leonard’s and pick up rubbish as I go and put it in the next bin I come to – I now know where all the bins are – and the last lot I put in a bin just near the parliament.

“It makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile. It’s also very good bending and stretching exercise which I 
certainly benefit from.”

Mr Scott says plastic bottles are the most common item of litter, though he once found a wallet and another time a set of keys, both of which he handed in to the police.

“We are lucky to be inheritors of wonderful parks and outdoor areas, some of which all too often are spoiled by unnecessary litter. Rather than stamp your foot and rail about it, I just take a practical view that you do something about it,” he said.

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone hailed Mr Scott’s efforts.

“I’m delighted to see he’s doing his bit to take care of the environment,” she said. “And he’s not alone. Francesca Saunders from Bruntsfield founded People Against Litter in 2003, asking people to pick up one piece of litter each and ask other people to do the same.

“And Stan McWhirter puts plastic bags in Harrison Park and all along the Union Canal.”

Derek Robertson, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, also praised Mr Scott.

He said: “This is a magnificent effort and shows real leadership. He is one of a growing number of volunteers who are playing an active part in making Scotland a cleaner and greener place.”