EDINBURGH'S streets are getting dirtier - according to a national environmental charity that is set to judge the city on its beauty in just four weeks' time.
• More litter is being dumped around the Capital, according to the report
The city has dropped two points in the past two years in the cleanliness index, while graffiti and litter have been on the rise.
Edinburgh is a contender in the Beautiful Scotland awards, with judges set to inspect the Capital on August 1.
But the Local Environment Audit and Management System annual report produced by Keep Scotland Beautiful shows that the overall cleanliness of the city has dropped from 71 in 2008-9 - out of 80 - to 69 in 2010-11.
The council has hit back at the figures, however, arguing that its own way of monitoring cleanliness in the Capital - known as CIMS - is a "more robust" system that shows the city has been improving.
According to Keep Scotland Beautiful, the appearance of graffiti has increased, with more than five per cent of city centre streets being affected.
There has also been an increase in food and smoking- related litter, with the number of pedestrians dropping litter also said to be increasing.
The report says the Capital's streets were at their worst during the winter months as they fell below minimum standards, while they were at their best in June and August.
Out of the sample test areas - known as transects - almost one in ten were found to be "unacceptable".
Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group, said: "Keep Scotland Beautiful is the national campaign for street cleanliness and the current council are all too keen to trumpet their CIMS scores when they are positive, but the truth is they have been falling, according to this independent report, for the past few years.
"We have had a work-to-rule as part of the bin dispute for two years now and the council is throwing millions of pounds at private sector workers to fill the gaps that are left.
"The priorities are clearly not working and the cleanliness of this city is decreasing."
According to the city council, it received a score of 68 in February this year and 70 in the latest CIMS inspection in March.
Environment leader, Councillor Robert Aldridge, said: "The council monitors the cleanliness of the city through the quarterly CIMS scores, which have continued to improve each year.
"This year, we have seen an average annual city-wide score of 71. We have also carried out successful anti-litter campaigns, which saw a 70 per cent reduction in smoking litter in Rose Street and dog fouling decrease by 80 per cent in the Forth ward."
The Keep Scotland Beautiful report says that there are "areas of concern", which are "well worth investigating further".
It states: "Despite recording an overall cleanliness index above the minimum standard, there is evidence that this was not the case throughout the survey year."
Competition judges will tour Edinburgh on August 1 to assess the city's cleanliness for themselves, as well as its horticulture, sustainability and diversity.
They will also be looking at levels of litter, dog fouling, graffiti, fly-posting and weeds.
The winners will be presented with their award in St Andrews on September 25.