THE SNP has been told to spend an unused £70 million recycling fund to clean up Scotland’s streets and halt rising numbers of rats.
Ministers announced the £70 million pot of funding in Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government in September – which the Scottish Government said was to be used to “improve local authority refuse collection infrastructure and develop a new route map to reduce waste and meet our waste and recycling targets for 2025”.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed that “no decisions have been made on how the fund will be distributed”, prompting calls by the Scottish Conservatives for the cash to be handed to local authorities.
The Tories claim doing so would help combat rat numbers, which are reported to have risen by three million in 2020 to 15 million, with lockdown changes thought to have contributed to the increase.
It has also been reported that the closure of food outlets through lockdown has driven rodents into more residential areas as they look for food.
Scottish Conservative economy spokesman Maurice Golden, whose parliamentary question prompted Ms Cunningham’s response, said: “The SNP’s decision to hoard this cash is only making the problems on Scotland’s streets worse.
“This is money that could help councils get out and collect more waste now.
“That would have an immediate impact on street cleanliness, the quality of life across many communities, and reducing the prevalence of rats.”
He added: “The SNP announced this commitment months ago, yet still as we enter 2021 it hasn’t been handed out to councils who so desperately need the money.
“It’s yet another example of the SNP hoping that warm words will make real problems go away.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local authorities already provide a range of waste and neighbourhood services to keep our streets clean and protect public health.
“Last week our climate change plan update set out measures to recycle 70% of all Scotland’s waste by 2025. A ban on household biodegradable waste being sent to landfill is already in place and the Climate Change Plan 2018–2032 commits to consulting on extending this to cover business and non-municipal waste by 2025.
“The establishment of a £70 million fund to improve local authority recycling collection is part of our multi-faceted approach to meeting these ambitious targets.
“We are currently working with organisations including Cosla, the Waste Management Officer’s Network and Zero Waste Scotland to agree an approach which ensures the fund makes the maximum impact.”