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18 October 2017

One million live in 'dirty' communities

Just a matter of weeks since Scotland was voted the world’s most beautiful country, a report is published by Keep Scotland Beautiful which suggests that the judges must have been highly selective about which parts of the country they visited.   KSB’s report highlights that environmental standards – measured by fly-tipping, litter, graffiti and weeds – have reached a ten year low and that the rate of decline is most severe in the country’s most disadvantaged communities. A much more coordinated approach is called for – both at national and on a community level – to resolve this blight on our communities.


 

By Sandra Dick, The Herald


To read report by Keep Scotland Beautiful click here 


SCOTLAND is being choked by soaring levels of litter and filth which is creating an image of a nation gripped by decline and neglect.


The amount of rubbish, flytipping and graffiti blighting communities is at its worst level in a decade, with council refuse collection cut backs and a lack of civil pride blamed for placing the prospects of one million Scots at risk.


A damning report from environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful also warns the problem is accelerating rapidly, with poorest areas suffering most and a direct impact on education, economic development and health.


The organisation has now appealed for a new nationwide strategy and shift in policies at both national and local level in a bid to halt the decline.


Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We are failing deprived communities the most, with one million people across the country living in dirty communities blighted by an increase in litter, graffiti and flytipping.


“As a country which places great emphasis on the quality of our environment, we are calling for national and local action, to ensure that we do not stand by and watch whilst standards continue to decline to the point of no return.


“Local environmental quality standards across Scotland have reached their lowest point in over a decade.”


Flytipping in particular has soared in deprived areas from 2013 levels, raising concerns that local authority cutbacks to street cleaning services and charges of up to £100 to householders for special uplifts for certain bulky items is fuelling an industry of illegal tipping.


Last month Zero Waste Scotland said littering and fly-tipping was costing the public purse more than £50m a year. It estimated that more than 15,000 tonnes of litter were discarded in Scotland each year and warned it was creating a "substantial impact" on the environment.


The Keep Scotland Beautiful report analysed data from more than 14,000 surveys of council areas across Scotland. It followed a call last year for action after research showed environmental standards were falling across Scotland after years of improvements.


While the latest report showed some improvements – particularly in levels of dog fouling – it warned of a “perfect storm” of austerity, unsustainable consumption, lack of civic pride and irresponsible behaviour”, with communities in urban and rural areas blighted by litter, weeds and graffiti.


It added that people in worst affected areas “report anxiety, depression and a generally poor state of health. They were less trustful of others, more resigned about difficulties in their area and more likely to live in fear of crime.”


Mr Robertson said: “Improving local environmental quality is not just about reducing litter levels and removing graffiti.


“There are wider consequences of living in a poor local environment. It impacts on health and wellbeing outcomes, contributes towards people’s fear of crime and negatively impacts economic development.


“As a country which places great emphasis on the quality of our environment, we are calling for national and local action, to ensure that we do not stand by and watch whilst standards continue to decline to the point of no return.”


The report also highlights the negative vision of Scotland given to tourists and travellers – particularly relevant given rising numbers of visitors opting to holiday in Scotland.


It warns: “Many visitors to Scotland witness poor local environmental quality as they travel on our road and rail network, and visit our industrial areas. These visitors, coming for business or pleasure, expect to see the Scotland we promote and portray. This is sometimes not the reality.”


Mr Robertson added: “We recognise that responding to declining local environmental quality is a challenge, and we are particularly sympathetic for hard pressed local authorities which are having to make increasingly difficult decisions on how budgets are prioritised. “This is why we are calling for environmental quality to be given priority attention by all of those with a part to play in the solution. “ “We have always had a problem, but until now we’ve been able to cope and clean up”.


A Scottish Government spokesperson said it was up to councils to tackle the problem of waste and litter in their areas.


“We recognise the links between health and the environment and are working to change people’s behaviour and prevent littering. Through our litter strategy we are aiming to provide better information, improved facilities and services and strengthening enforcement.


“We are also supporting public, private and third sector organisations through Zero Waste Scotland, to lead their communities in the fight against litter and flytipping by developing Litter Prevention Action Plans.


“The Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government and it is up to them to allocate according to local needs, including keeping relevant council land clear of litter and roads clean.”


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