Glasgow’s council leader has denied bins are overflowing and rubbish collectors have needed hospital treatment for rat attacks, as she insisted the city is ready to host Cop26.
Susan Aitken said Glasgow is ready “with caveats” for the United Nations’ climate conference and none of the problems the city faces is “enough to cause panic”.
Giving evidence to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee about preparations for Cop26, Ms Aitken argued that other cities are dirtier than Glasgow and she is “not embarrassed” about its condition.
She said it is “entirely gratuitous” to suggest the city is in a state of disrepair but that cleansing staff are “working round the clock” ahead of the climate summit.
The Glasgow City Council leader said: “The Cop26 co-ordinating board within the council met last week and the verdict was that we are ready, with caveats.
“I would say the caveats are mainly technical, some of them have already been resolved or are being ticked off.
“None of them were massive, none of them were enough to cause panic.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked whether the “technical issues were that the bins are overflowing, there’s rats in the streets and some of your employees have been taken to hospital while collecting that rubbish?”
Ms Aitken denied that was the case, although she later admitted that there have been “small incidents” where rubbish collectors had been taken to hospital after “very minor contact with a rat”.
The GMB union has said it is aware of four binmen being taken to hospital after rat attacks, although Ms Aitken told the committee there was “one, possibly two at most”.
The SNP councillor said: “Our cleansing employees occasionally experience rats.
“It’s also not something that is unique to Glasgow, it’s something that’s happening right across the UK – all cities have rats.”
Addressing concerns about the rubbish situation, Ms Aitken added: “This is not unique to Glasgow. And what I reject entirely are suggestions that Glasgow is somehow particular in this, it is peculiarly challenged in relation to any of these things.”
Ms Aitken also told the committee that 12,000 additional hours have been worked to clean Glasgow ahead of Cop26, with 150 new rubbish bins deployed across the city.
She added: “According to Keep Scotland Beautiful, Edinburgh was actually worse impacted by these (rubbish) issues during the pandemic, but I don’t recall anyone saying ‘Edinburgh should be embarrassed about having the festival’.
“We are – as are other cities globally – working to address the very serious challenges and impacts that were caused by the pandemic, but we were never going to be able to recover overnight from the impact on our services on the city.
“I believe we are making considerable progress, we’re working round the clock to address those issues – particularly in the Cop26 zones in the city – but actually right across the city.
“Our services are not just for VIPs coming to Glasgow, we’re not working to have our services recover from that impact of Covid just because Joe Biden’s coming to town; we’re doing it for our citizens because, actually, our services are for them, first and foremost.
“So no, I’m not embarrassed. I’m confident that the visitors coming to Glasgow will see – as they always see – an incredibly vibrant, diverse, and welcoming urban space.”
Asked about the state of Glasgow as it prepares to host Cop26 from October 31, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I think there are challenges in Glasgow and challenges in cities across Scotland, the UK, the world – some of them related to Covid, some of them more fundamental than that.
“I’m not going to stand here and say they don’t exist in Glasgow.
“I think Glasgow is ready for Cop26.
“Glasgow – as it has been with big events in past years – will be an excellent host for Cop26, and that’s important.
“But – as all countries do – we have challenges in our public services and how we make sure they’re delivering in the post-Covid era.”