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Poor communities in Scotland are getting dirtier

This opinion piece is over 6 years old

Carole Noble explains the social impact of the decline of our local environments

How do you feel when you’re walking home at night? Do you feel safe? Do you feel a sense of pride in your local area? Because for many of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities this couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, we at Keep Scotland Beautiful, recently released a report which examined the quality of local environments in communities across Scotland. The report is an update to a version released in early 2016 which found that, for the first time in a decade, levels of litter, graffiti, dog fouling, flytipping and weed growth are at an all time high. Sadly, despite ten years of continued improvement to Scotland’s streets and public spaces, they were dirtier than ever.

Keep Scotland Beautiful called for national action in 2016 to change the behaviour that affects our communities, yet our 2017 report highlights that standards are continuing to slide.

Carol Noble
Carol Noble

Most worryingly, our poorest communities are being hit the hardest. It is in these deprived areas that the decline is the greatest and the gap in standards is widening between them and the more affluent communities.

Cleaner streets and open spaces are intrinsically linked to better social outcomes. There is reams of research to demonstrate that poor local environmental quality is linked directly to poorer physical and mental health outcomes and feeling safe in your own streets. It therefore is quite staggering that local environmental quality is not a core pillar of our preventative spending agenda.

Scotland faces a significant challenge to turn this around. This is simply unacceptable and we should all be determined to change it.

However, what can we do – both collectively and individually?

Individual behaviour change is central to the solution. We all need to realise that by dropping litter, leaving our sofas in the street, or defacing a building with graffiti is a fundamental problem and individual failure – not to mention also illegal.

Each of these individual actions are caused by someone having little or no respect for our environment and lacking motivation to do the right thing. We need to change that and encourage others to do the same. We need to make it unacceptable. It is a challenge for change for each and every one of us.

Collectively, we can encourage action – at a local and national level – to ensure that policymakers and government recognise that the decline in environmental standards is having wider damaging effects.

Keep Scotland Beautiful fully appreciates that public sector spending reductions have without doubt impacted upon our hard pressed local authorities to clean up after those whose deep seated irresponsibility causes the problem. However, we need to seriously consider the real preventative spending benefits of creating cleaner and greener communities. After all, improving the health, wealth and happiness of all of Scotland’s people is a goal worth pursuing.