Edinburgh bin strikes: No-star review for festival streets

The world’s biggest arts festival is in full swing in the Scottish capital, properly back in action for the first time after two years of disruption due to Covid-19.

Streets are thronging with visitors and locals alike, out to enjoy the entertainment and soak up the buzz – backed by unusually good weather.

The three-week extravaganza has been sorely missed, not just for its social and cultural value, but also because of the huge income it generates – estimates suggest direct and indirect revenue is north of £1 billion annually.

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It also puts Edinburgh on the international map. For many it’s ‘the’ place to be in August.

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But right now, from where I’m standing, Edinburgh gets a one-star review for first impressions.

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Unfortunately, this year’s big return to festival form has clashed with strikes by council workers, including refuse collectors, over pay.

I have sympathy with the strikers, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

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Edinburgh's streets are a sorry sight during the festival as mountains of rubbish pile up as a result of council strikes. Picture: Ilona Amos

But after just a few days of a planned 12-day strike, streets are already disappearing under manky mountains of rubbish.

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The industrial action is due to end on August 30, shortly after the culmination of International, Fringe and Book festival events.

Up town at the weekend, I was appalled at the overflowing bins and general trail of trash littering the main thoroughfares.

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South Bridge looked like a tornado had hit it.

Bins are overflowing all over the city centre, especially in the busiest places for festivalgoers -- this picture was taken in the Meadows, close to some of the major events venues. Picture: Ilona Amos
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I could hear people commenting on the state of the place, many puzzled as to why it was such a tip.

But this was not just Fringe show fliers. It was every type of detritus.

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Local residents have been out with bin bags to clear up their neighbourhoods, while special teams of festival litter-pickers have been going beyond their remit to help.

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The capital's South Bridge -- strewn with rubbish as hordes visit the city for the first full-scale Edinburgh Festival since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Picture: Ilona Amos

Glasgow was hit by similar disputes last year, just as the United Nations climate summit COP26 was due to roll into town

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The council was blasted over the piles of waste building up, with fears raised over the threat to public health and potential damage to the city’s global reputation.

At the 11th hour the worst of it was cleaned up, presenting a fairly clean and tidy face to the thousands of delegates and world leaders arriving to discuss the environment.

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Come on Edinburgh, we don’t want a return to the Auld Reekie reputation.

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