The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)

Council chief says Covid and Thatcher to blame for ‘mess’ ahead of COP26


Rats, piles of rubbish and fly-tipping epidemics are problems “not unique” to Glasgow, its council leader has said, a week before Scotland welcomes COP26.

SNP administra­tion leader Susan Aitken called questions surroundin­g Scotland’s biggest city and its issues on cleanlines­s “gratuitous”, before doubling-down on claims Edinburgh faced bigger problems with its bins.

Recycling staff across Glasgow are set to strike during the summit, which will see around 30,000 people descend on the city from across the globe.

Ms Aitken gave evidence along with leaders in the hotel industry and climate change to the Westminste­r Scottish Affairs Committee, chaired by SNP Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart.

Around 150,000 protesters are expected on November 6, but this is well below the figures which have been recorded at previous COP events.

The affairs committee took place at the same time First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a speech to students in Glasgow, where she admitted the city faced “some challenges”.

Ms Aitken was questioned on the state of Glasgow ahead of the event and previous comments which had been “ridiculed”. She said Glasgow faced issues as a “transition­ing city” and some of the blame could be put on the Thatcher government of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Because of the Covid pandemic, she added, additional strains have been placed on the city’s refuse teams. “While public services, generally, have been impacted by the pandemic, cleansing services have been very strongly impacted,” she said.

“Glasgow has not been the worst impacted in Scotland... but perhaps because of COP26 there has been a particular focus on us.”

When asked by Scottish Conservati­ve leader Douglas Ross if she regrets saying Glasgow just needed a “spruce-up” ahead of COP26, Ms Aitken said: “I do not in any way shy away from the challenges we face as a city, historic challenges that have been around for many years, much of them a legacy of our postindust­rial past when the Thatcher government walked away and abandoned and left in neglect communitie­s across the city.”

Scottish Conservati­ve MSP for the Glasgow region, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “We’ve heard a lot of far-fetched excuses from Susan Aitken over the past few months, but the idea that Margaret Thatcher is to blame for the current state of Glasgow’s streets absolutely takes the biscuit.”

Speaking at an event at Strathclyd­e University ahead of the conference getting under way on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think there are challenges in Glasgow and challenges in cities across Scotland, the UK, the world.”

She added: “I’m not going to stand here and say they don’t exist in Glasgow.

“I think Glasgow is ready for COP 26.”

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