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Anger over Glasgow’s filthy rat-infested streets and alleys hidden from COP26

These are the filthy, rat-infested side streets and alleyways that COP26 delegates won’t see when they come to Scotland next month.

Refuse collectors have said they can’t cope with cuts that have led to a rise in rancid conditions in Glasgow’s streets – just miles from where world leaders will thrash out a climate change deal.

GMB officials, who have now pleaded with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to intervene in the waste row, took our reporter to some of the worst-hit areas.

Union officials have said the city’s back streets have become Glasgow’s “secret shame”.

They warned staff were risking injury to get the streets tidied up in time for the eco conference.

In a lane near Allison Street, in Govanhill, in the heart of the First Minister’s constituency, we found rat traps, abandoned mattresses and litter. At nearby flats, overflowing bins spilled into common areas, making it a no-go area for residents.

In neighbouring Cessnock, in lanes that run parallel to the main clean thoroughfare, litter lay piled up in common areas.

Fly-tipping has increased after the council introduced a £35 special uplift charge this year.

A drying green area in Govanhill

GMB convener Chris Mitchell, who has worked in the cleansing department for 30 years, said: “The cleansing crisis in the city will continue to get worse unless there is an intervention from the Scottish Government. It’s the worst I have ever seen it.

“Our older workers, who were once shielded with the easier manual tasks are no longer able to. Our days are long and ­physically intense and that is causing injuries.

“People go off sick and that makes the pressure worse on the remaining staff. There is overtime being offered before COP26 but it isn’t enough.

“There is nowhere else in Europe that ­carries out the ­cleansing function the way Glasgow does. Cuts in street cleaning, cuts in refuse collection and an ageing fleet is the ­perfect storm for the ­current mess.”

Clifford Lane in Cessnock
Clifford Lane in Cessnock

The union is ­calling for investment, an end to special uplift charges and the reintroduction of the specialised backcourts teams to clear closes.

City Council leader Susan Aitken has been criticised for insisting Glasgow is clean. Earlier this month, she claimed some “wee neds” were ­responsible for a spate of graffiti attacks and said the problems were no ­different to elsewhere. A Glasgow taxi driver has 3000 ­signatures on a petition calling for her to quit.

Stef Shaw, known as the poetry-writing Glasgow Cabbie, said: “I love Glasgow so it breaks my heart to say this – it’s become a dump and Susan Aitken is burying her head in the ground denying it.” , ­ ­Scottish Greens councillor for ­Pollokshields, said: “While it’s true that litter on our streets isn’t causing the climate emergency, it is symbolic of the throwaway culture that’s wired into the capitalist system, which is what’s driven the planet to the brink.”

A spokesman for the council criticised the GMB for “trashing” the city’s reputation.

He added: “Back courts and back lanes next to housing are private ­property for which ­owners, ­factors and residents are ­responsible.

“We have been working with a number of housing associations to improve waste management in back courts for social housing, but these measures have been resisted by the GMB.

“It would also help if the GMB ­publicly acknowledged cleansing budgets have been protected, extra staff are being recruited and significant investments are being made.”




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