COP26: Demand for 'deep clean' of Glasgow as union boss rails at 'hypocrisy' of city hosting summit

Glasgow needs a “deep clean” to prepare it for welcoming global dignitaries to the international climate change summit it has been claimed in the wake of accusations, by a trade union leader, that it is hypocritical for the “crumbling and filthy” city to be host.

Gary Smith from the GMB union speaking during a debate at a Scottish Labour conference.
Gary Smith from the GMB union speaking during a debate at a Scottish Labour conference.

Concerns are mounting that the city will not look its best when COP26 is held this November, with Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney calling for the Scottish Government to create a specialised fund to avoid embarrassment on the world stage.

He said a “deep clean” of the kind undertaken in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games was needed, and cited budget cuts and and the pandemic as having had a major impact on the ability of the city’s cleansing department to cope.

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His comments came after newly-elected general secretary of the GMB, Gary Smith said the “hypocrisy around the event coming to Glasgow is staggering.”

He added: “Glasgow has suffered huge cuts to public spending, the streets are filthy, the infrastructure is crumbling, the public realm is in a terrible state of decay.

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“We’ve got filthy streets and kids going to school hungry, and here we are welcoming the world to talk about this big new future. I am deeply uncomfortable with that. We don’t even have a publicly-owned, clean public transport system in Glasgow.”

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Mr Smith suggested protest strike action during the summit was possible. “If our members say ‘enough is enough’ in the lead up to COP over cuts and over discrimination at work, this union will not be found wanting,” he said.

“The social and environmental issues in Glasgow would justify an industrial response.”

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Mr Sweeney said the city had suffered a 15 per cent budget cut from the Scottish Government over the last decade. “With other spending being ring-fenced the council has had less discretion to fund other areas such as cleansing,” he added.

"That combined with the pandemic when services have been reduced has led to fly-tipping and an increase in rats. Having COP26 come to Glasgow is very welcome, but the city needs to prepare in the same way it did for the Commonwealth Games, including a deep clean, and so far there has been no sign of that.

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"If the council cannot afford to do so, then the Scottish Government should look at special funding to ensure there is no embarrassment with leaders arrive.”

Similar concerns have also been raised by some councillors and Mr Smith’s union that the city is facing a “waste crisis” and is on the brink of a health and safety crisis.

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A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “As has been discussed quite widely, the council will put in place an appropriate cleansing operation both in advance of and during COP, to meet the needs of the event and the wider city.

"There is no doubt the pandemic has created challenges in cleansing and environmental protection; not just for the council, but also for private landowners – and we are working to address these as part of the city’s wider recovery. The council’s spending on environmental protection is going up, not down.”

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