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One million people in Scotland living in ‘dirty’ communities

One million people in Scotland living in ‘dirty’ communities

Damning report lays bare the scale of decline in local environmental quality in deprived communities

Overall local environmental quality indicators have declined again this year – reaching their lowest point in a decade. And worryingly, the country’s most deprived communities are blighted by the highest levels of litter, graffiti, flytipping, detritus and weed growth, and it is in these communities that the decline is greatest, and accelerating.

That’s according to a report published today (Monday 16 October) by environmental charity, Keep Scotland Beautiful.

The report, based on data from over 14,000 surveys across Scotland, confirms that there has been a marked increase in the presence of litter, flytipping and graffiti in communities across the country.

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said:

“Local environmental quality standards across Scotland have reached their lowest point in over a decade. We are failing deprived communities the most, with 1 million people across the country living in dirty communities blighted by an increase in litter, graffiti and flytipping.

Shockingly, the gap in standards between Scotland’s most deprived and most affluent areas is widening – with standards falling more severely and at a faster rate in Scotland’s poorest communities.

It is well established that that local environmental quality is linked to poorer health and wellbeing outcomes, as well as impacting on community safety and economic development in local communities. Keep Scotland Beautiful is calling for political leadership to improve the outcomes and determined national action to reverse the decline in standards.

In last year’s report Keep Scotland Beautiful identified that standards were falling across Scotland, after years of improvements. This year it has been identified that standards have slipped further, despite some very positive initiatives, and the most deprived communities have experienced the greatest decline.

Derek added:

“The national picture is one of declining standards and neglect.

“This national decline has been caused by the perfect storm of austerity, unsustainable consumption, lack of civic pride and concern, and perhaps an increase in irresponsible behaviour.  We have always had a problem, but until now we’ve been able to cope and clean up”.

“It is clear that the current disjointed approach is simply not working. This has allowed an environmental set-back to threaten our ambition for Scotland to be a socially just society.

“Improving local environmental quality is not just about reducing litter levels and removing graffiti. There are wider consequences of living in a poor local environment. It impacts on health and wellbeing outcomes, contributes towards people’s fear of crime and negatively impacts economic development.

“As a country which places great emphasis on the quality of our environment, we are calling for national and local action, to ensure that we do not stand by and watch whilst standards continue to decline to the point of no return.”

This year’s report, titled “Local environmental quality in decline”, details that “currently, deprived communities are bearing a disproportionate burden of negative environmental impacts…The inequality between Scotland’s most deprived and most affluent communities will continue to grow if we do not take collective action to improve local environmental quality. The consequences of continuing decline are far reaching, from poorer health to weakened local economies…”.

The report also highlights a range of evidence which illustrates the negative effects of poor local environmental quality across a range of policy areas.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Derek continued:

“The reason for the growing divide between the quality of our environments in the most affluent and the most deprived communities is difficult to understand. However, we know that those in more deprived areas tend to have less exposure to the information and resources which help them to ask for support and take action to address the issues themselves.  Many of our deprived communities are also densely populated or very rural, meaning that pressures on services are greater.”

“We recognise that responding to declining local environmental quality is a challenge, and we are particularly sympathetic for hard pressed local authorities which are having to make increasingly difficult decisions on how budgets are prioritised.  This is why we are calling for environmental quality to be given priority attention by all of those with a part to play in the solution. From changing the behaviour of those in our society who act irresponsibly and create the problem, to taking political leadership and shared strategic action to formulate a new national plan that will reverse Scotland’s environmental decline.”