WE MUST RESPECT OUR COUNTRYSIDE OR PAY THE PRICE
It is heart-breaking for members of the public to see others undermine and, in some cases, completely disrespect, their local community. Far too often our beautiful countryside and iconic landscapes are being desecrated by selfishness and laziness.
In recent months, the incidence of litter, fly-tipping, and anti-social behaviour has been on the increase in Scotland and sadly, that is true in the Abernethy and Earn area too. It has been making life a misery for all those who live in the affected areas.
In the local authority area, hundreds of items including fridges, mattresses, washing machines and asbestos have been illegally dumped and, during the current lockdown, some of the verges are full of Christmas waste including trees, decorations and old bottles.
There is no excuse for dumping waste like this, especially as the recycling centres remain open during this lockdown. Indeed, it is a criminal offence and so it is good to hear that new measures are being debated to increase the ability of local authorities, police and environment agencies to catch the perpetrators. This move follows a huge number of letters, emails and petition signatures received by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at Holyrood and the evidence sessions currently being undertaken by the Environment Committee at Westminster.
Whilst the offenders are small in number, their behaviour has disproportionately large implications and costs for the communities they choose to target, and for the nation too. We need legislative changes to ensure that local authorities have more workable powers to address the situation (as they do in England and Wales) rather than having to depend most of the time on the Procurator Fiscal process which can take such a long time, and we need to increase the fines and ensure that these are enforced. In 2018 Police Scotland recorded just 61 fly-tipping offences even though environmental bodies suggest the true total is more than 60,000. This isn’t good enough and it makes the perpetrators think they can get away with it. If a fine is not paid, a Community Payback Order should be imposed immediately.
Figures provided by Zero Waste Scotland tell us that litter and fly-tipping costs councils a staggering £53 million of public money each year and they are predicting the next statistics will be even worse.
From a local authority perspective, especially in the current very tight financial climate, that is money that could be far better spent on dealing with potholes in our roads or cutting hedges and grass or tending to run-down cemeteries.
Voters consistently tell the pollsters that environment policies will play a big part in determining which party gets their vote. Not only must we pursue policies to effectively tackle climate change and the green economic recovery, but we must up our game when it comes to tackling fly-tipping and litter.