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COP26 site Glasgow is dubbed the UK’s ‘flytipping capital’

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World leaders from 120 countries will descend on Glasgow for the COP26 climate change conference in two weeks – but Scotland’s second city is blighted by rubbish and fly-tipping as well as some of the UK’s highest poverty, drug death and crime rates.

Grim photos of Glasgow – once a Labour Party stronghold and now in the grips of Nicola Sturgeon’s Left-wing party – show a city in the midst of chaos, with bins overflowing after the SNP-controlled council decided to move once-fortnightly collections back by an extra week.

While the Scottish First Minister and the SNP posture on the national stage ‘banning’ nuclear submarines and trying to introduce a four-day week, the buildings owned by Glasgow’s council are decaying, with raw sewage coursing through cellars and rats hospitalising dustmen. 

To cap it all, Glasgow is currently the eighth-highest Covid hotspot in Europe, has been found to be the deadliest place to work in the UK, and the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the city has recently been found to have increased by three years.  

And the situation could soon worsen, with 1,500 refuse workers, school cleaners and cooks who are members of the GMB union set to join bin men and ScotRail staff on strike because of an ongoing pay dispute – with 96.9 per cent of returned ballots backing industrial action. 

The action is slated for the first two weeks of November, when world leaders including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden will be in town for one of the most consequential climate summits in history. Scenes of waste-strewn streets would be a fresh blow to the summit, which has already been hit by news President Xi Jinping of China may not attend.  

After a hard-fought recovery from the collapse of industry and huge unemployment of recent decades, it appears Glasgow has been knocked down once again – and the blows raining down on it are being struck by its own elected leaders.

Pictures have shown the grim reality of every corner of Scotland’s second city being blighted with rubbish, fly-tipping and bins overflowing in recent months (this image shows fly-tipping in Cranhill) 

Workers remove bath tubs, window frames, mattresses, broken furniture and construction waste dumped underneath the M8 motorway on September 15

Workers remove bath tubs, window frames, mattresses, broken furniture and construction waste dumped underneath the M8 motorway on September 15

Police at the entrance to High Street Station in Glasgow's East End where teenager Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured on Saturday afternoon

Police at the entrance to High Street Station in Glasgow’s East End where teenager Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured on Saturday afternoon

Grim photos of Glasgow - once a Labour Party stronghold and now in the grips of Nicola Sturgeon's party - depict a city in chaos, with bins overflowing after the SNP-controlled council decided to move once-fortnightly collections back by an extra week

Grim photos of Glasgow – once a Labour Party stronghold and now in the grips of Nicola Sturgeon’s party – depict a city in chaos, with bins overflowing after the SNP-controlled council decided to move once-fortnightly collections back by an extra week

Fly-tipping scandal

Glasgow City Council, run by the SNP, rubberstamped plans to make refuse collections happen every three weeks in April and introduced a new £35 charge for ‘bulk items’, which has prompted a marked increase in fly-tipping.

Refuse collectors have warned of an impending health and safety disaster – pointing to the ever-increasing risk of Weil’s disease, which can be passed on to humans through rat urine.

Ms Sturgeon, 51, and her party have faced criticism from leaders across the political spectrum, including Labour’s Keir Starmer who warned Glasgow was ‘in a waste crisis’ earlier this summer. 

Thomas Kerr, the Conservative leader on Glasgow’s council, added: ‘We’ve become the fly-tipping capital of Britain and host the UK’s fourth-highest population of rats. That’s the legacy of Glasgow’s first Nationalist council.’

Eva Murray, a city councillor who has lived in Glasgow all her life, says: ‘The other day, I was walking around the city centre, and I noticed that there was a genuine smell.

‘There’s just no doubt that the city is very dirty. We are in the middle of a waste crisis and it’s important that people should know that – including all the world leaders and delegates that are coming to COP26.’ 

Pictures show the grim reality of every corner of Scotland's second city being blighted with rubbish, fly-tipping and bins overflowing in recent month

Pictures show the grim reality of every corner of Scotland’s second city being blighted with rubbish, fly-tipping and bins overflowing in recent month 

Flytipping has skyrocketed in the city since a £35 bulk waste charge was implemented by Glasgow City Council in April. Above: Litter is left in Camlachie area of east Glasgow

Flytipping has skyrocketed in the city since a £35 bulk waste charge was implemented by Glasgow City Council in April. Above: Litter is left in Camlachie area of east Glasgow

Chris Mitchell, GMB Scotland Convenor for Glasgow City Council Cleansing, started his working life 30 years ago as a street sweeper. He thundered: ‘There’s a complete denial by the SNP that the city is in crisis. I’ve never seen a decline this horrendous.

‘Over the past six to seven years, our budget has been obliterated. It’s a risk to public health and safety, and in the summer the city stinks. It’s actually embarrassing.’ 

Mr Mitchell provides figures that speak for themselves. ‘The number of street cleaners has gone from around 800 to 900 down to 213,’ he says.

‘The number of refuse collectors has gone down from 1,300 to 800. And the council often has to hire agency workers, who have no pensions, or don’t even know if they have a job at the end of the week.’

To encourage recycling – and doubtless to save money – the council has reduced bin collection to once every three weeks. In addition, it is charging £35 per item for disposing of bulk items such as pieces of furniture. The result is predictable, with fly-tipping rampant and household waste bins overflowing – providing rich pickings for Glasgow’s ever-increasing population of rodents. 

Strike action 

It comes as 1,500 Glasgow City Council staff in the refuse, cleansing, school janitorial and catering sectors could strike because of an ongoing pay dispute, with 96.9 per cent of returned ballots backing industrial action.

GMB members rejected a £850-a-year increase for staff earning up to £25,000 a year from local authority umbrella body Cosla, with the union – along with Unison and Unite – all calling for a £2,000 pay rise. Cosla said negotiations are ongoing.

Organiser, Chris Mitchell, said: ‘Over the past 18 months throughout this awful pandemic, essential services across Scotland have been held together by an army of low paid workers. We were called key workers, even Covid heroes, but while politicians were happy to applaud us on Thursday nights, they’ve never put their hands in their pockets to pay us properly.

‘The eyes of the world will be on Glasgow during COP26, and our politicians now have a choice – will they fairly reward the frontline workers who got the country through the pandemic, or will they risk embarrassing the city and the country on an international stage? The message that our members have sent with this ballot result is clear. We are taking a stand for what we deserve, and we believe the people will stand with us.’

The call for industrial action comes after Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken was criticised for saying the city needs a ‘spruce up’ before the COP26 conference.  

The news comes amid sweeping cuts to local authority budgets backed by the First Minister - whose Scottish National Party took charge of Glasgow City Council in 2017. Pictured: Fly-tipping outside flats in Anniesland, Glasgow

The news comes amid sweeping cuts to local authority budgets backed by the First Minister – whose Scottish National Party took charge of Glasgow City Council in 2017. Pictured: Fly-tipping outside flats in Anniesland, Glasgow

Old car seats, boxes and household rubbish line the streets of Govanhill in Glasgow, just weeks before the COP26 conference

Old car seats, boxes and household rubbish line the streets of Govanhill in Glasgow, just weeks before the COP26 conference

Her comments received a backlash from politicians and members of the public who claimed she was ‘out of touch’ with the city. 

A Cosla spokesman said: ‘We appreciate everything that Local Government workers have been doing, and continue to do, to support people and communities during the pandemic and as we begin to recover. We continue with ongoing, constructive negotiations.’ 

Rail workers will also go on strike during COP26, the RMT union confirmed on Thursday, over a separate dispute over pay and conditions.

ScotRail staff will strike from Monday November 1 until Friday November 12. Staff on the Caledonian Sleeper will hold two 24-hour strikes: one from 11.59am on Sunday October 31 and one on Thursday November 11, also from 11.59am.

Poverty rates

Figures released last year found that parts of Glasgow’s East End are among Scotland’s most deprived areas. The latest Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data shows Carntyne West and Haghill is the second most deprived area in the country, second only to Greenock town centre.

North Barlanark and Easterhouse South also joined the top of the list – ranked tenth.

Glasgow City Council as a local authority came second overall in terms of having the largest local share of deprived areas on 44 per cent.

However this marks the largest fall in areas of deprivation since the SIMD figures were last published in 2016 – when almost half (48 per cent) of the city’s data zones were classed as being in the bottom fifth.

The SIMD research splits Scotland into almost 7,000 geographic areas, with researchers looking at multiple indicators such as crime, unemployment, pupil attainment rates and how long people have to travel to get to a GP in each of these. 

In the West End, Partickhill and Hyndland were ranked 6951 out of 6976 zones in Scotland, while Newlands in the South Side was ranked 6819. Carntyne West and Haghill in the East has seen a significant increase in the rankings in recent years. In 2012, it was ranked 273 in Scotland. It rose to 33 in 2016 before second in the most recent figures.  

Community bins have overflowed, discarded masks and takeaway boxes spill out of gutters and piles of waste have mounted high in the city's centre, providing rich pickings for Glasgow's ever-increasing population of rodents

Community bins have overflowed, discarded masks and takeaway boxes spill out of gutters and piles of waste have mounted high in the city’s centre, providing rich pickings for Glasgow’s ever-increasing population of rodents

Separate analysis of census data spanning 40 years from 1971 to 2011 found that Glasgow has the ten most deprived places in the UK. The Calton area in the city’s east end had three of the most deprived areas, with the North East having three while there were one each in the census wards of Baillieston, Springburn, Govan and Drumchapel/Anniesland.

For the 2011 census the most deprived areas in Britain were parts of Glasgow, Birmingham, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar and Cleveland, Bradford and Birmingham.

Chris Lloyd, Professor of Quantitative Geography at the University of Liverpool which carried out the study, said: ‘These findings show just how persistent deprivation is and they also show how concentrations of deprivation in urban areas are actually growing.

‘The study shows that the experience of people living in deprived areas can be very different; in some neighbourhoods, high levels of deprivation are all that residents have known while in others a combination of population change within areas and migration into and out of these areas, as well as economic fluctuations, mean that levels of deprivation have increased markedly in recent years.’

Drug deaths and crime 

Scotland also continues to suffer the worst drug death rate in Europe, with figures released in July this year finding that deaths rose to a record 1,339 in 2020 – 21.2 deaths per 1,000 of the population, and the seventh time in a row that the number as risen. 

The figure for 2020 shows 75 more deaths than the previous year, when 1,264 people lost their lives. Last year’s figure is also the highest number of drug-related deaths since records began in 1996, and is more than three-and-a-half times higher than England and Wales.

Glasgow was again found to be the worst area for people struggling with addiction, with 291 dying there last year. Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest rate of all Scottish health board areas at 30.8 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Ayrshire and Arran and Tayside with rates of 27.2 and 25.7 respectively.

Men were almost three times as likely to die of drug misuse than women, the figures also show, and people in the poorest areas were 18 times as likely to die than those in the least-deprived areas. Almost two-thirds of all drug-related deaths were people between ages 35 and 54.

The rise in the number of drug-related deaths over the past 25 years has been the steepest since 2013. The SNP had a majority government in Scotland between 2011 and 2016, after which they governed with a minority rule. 

And like other parts of the UK, Glasgow is victim to a knife crime epidemic. Just this week, a  murder investigation has been launched into the death of a 14-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed at High Street station in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.

Police at the entrance to High Street Station in Glasgow's East End where teenager Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured on Saturday afternoon

Police at the entrance to High Street Station in Glasgow’s East End where teenager Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured on Saturday afternoon

Emergency services were called to Glasgow's High Street station

Emergency services were called to Glasgow’s High Street station

Justin McLaughlin was found seriously injured following what police have described as a ‘shocking act of violence’. He was taken to the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Police described a 14-year-old’s death as a ‘shocking loss of life’.

The station in the city centre remained closed overnight as officers investigated the scene, with trains being diverted. Police Scotland have now confirmed they are treating the death as murder and are appealing for any witnesses who can help with their investigation.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes, of Police Scotland’s major investigation team, said: ‘Our thoughts very much remain with Justin’s family and friends.

‘His family have asked for their privacy to be respected at this very difficult time, and they are being supported by specialist officers.

‘Although inquiries are at an early stage, what we do know is that an incident took place at High Street train station and we are sure that there will be people who may have witnessed something in the lead up to this.

‘The area would have been busy with members of the public and commuters and we are urging those who have any information, no matter how small, to get in contact with police.’

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