I was very pleased to see Scotland’s rural and environmental bodies join forces this week to call for urgent action from the Scottish Government to tackle the scourge of flytipping.
Representatives of NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and the Woodland Trust all put their names to an open letter to the Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
In the letter, the organisations said they wanted to see a shift in focus from the endless task of clearing up other people’s mess to preventing it from occurring in the first place.
They have warned that every week without serious action is another week that our beautiful countryside is used as a “dumping ground”.
In the letter, there were three suggestions as to what must be done.
The first is a co-ordinated strategic national response to tackle flytipping.
Secondly, a call for collaborative, cross-sector working with a firm commitment from the Scottish Government to regularly bring key stakeholders together.
And lastly, a greater use of data to better asses the scale and impact of the problem which can then be used to help drive action at a regional or local level.
Flytipping is an issue that I have recently publicly raised on behalf of my constituents.
A freedom of informatiom request, submitted by my office, found that there has been a surge in incidents across Aberdeenshire since the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
More than a third of those – 276 in total – were reported in areas around towns and villages in Banff and Buchan.
A huge range of items were dumped including; fridges, mattresses, car tyres, washing machines, ovens, TVs, asbestos and other construction waste.
The re-opening of the council skips on June 1 made little difference to the figures – there were still hundreds of reports of illegal dumping after that point.
This is utterly irresponsible behaviour, which places an unfair burden on the taxpayer as it is the council that normally cleans up the mess. In other cases, farmers and landowners pick up the tab.
So, I am happy to support this call for the Scottish Government to act. I hope that the environment secretary will respond in a positive and constructive way.
On a separate note, I was disappointed to read that the Scottish Government has refused a request from Aberdeenshire Council for funding to help replace bridges in the King Edward area.
A year on from the deluge last Septembrr that washed away many of these crossings, residents are still having to take lengthy detours.
This affects the time it takes children to get to school, it affects adults getting to and from work, and it affects farmers, delivery drivers and our emergency response services.
I have been working with the community throughout this process and I am looking into ways in which the UK Government might be able to help instead.
Ironically, an SNP amendment during the Internal Market Bill debate earlier this week would have prevented Westminster from directly funding infrastructure projects across the UK.
As well as protecting the £51.5billion of trade done between Scotland and the rest of the UK, this bill would allow the UK Government to invest in specific projects in all four nations of the UK.