Council refuse workers have been on strike in Edinburgh since last week – Copyright AFP Andy Buchanan
Trash overflowed from bins on the streets of Edinburgh on Tuesday as a strike by council workers hit the city during its internationally renowned arts festival.
Tens of thousands of performers and tourists have poured into Scotland’s capital for the festival, which runs through most of August.
But many have spoken at their revulsion at the stench as bins overflowed around the city, whose thick smog in the 16th and 17th centuries earned it the nickname “Auld Reekie” (Old Smoky).
“I’m from London and we’ve seen some quite bad protests and bad riots but this is up there,” street performer James Tofalli, who was picking up litter outside Waverley train station, told AFP.
“I’ve not performed today. Not performed yesterday and for a few days because it’s not a nice place to play.”
Jenna Rank, an Australian tourist, said she had been excited to show “beautiful Edinburgh” to her partner, with the festival running in full for the first time since 2019 before coronavirus struck.
But she said she was left deeply disappointed after encountering an overpowering stench.
“I kind of joked, ‘oh welcome to beautiful Edinburgh — it’s not normally like this’,” she said.
“It was quite breath-taking and not just the smell. For some people it’s their first time. It’s a shame to leave that kind of impression.”
Ian Tomlinson, who was born in Edinburgh, said he had never seen the city this bad, as fears grew about a surge in the population of rats and other pests.
“This is embarrassing. I am actually embarrassed to walk around the city at the moment and see so much junk,” he said.
Cleaning staff working for Edinburgh City Council went on a 12-day strike last Thursday after rejecting a 3.0 percent pay offer which it called “derisory” in the current economic climate.
UK inflation is currently at 40-year highs of 10.1 percent on the back of soaring energy costs, and is predicted to hit 13 percent or even higher next year.
A strike by bin lorry drivers in Coventry, central England, lasted six months until late July. The country has recently been hit by strikes by railway workers and criminal lawyers over pay.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the strike action came while Edinburgh was at the “centre of the cultural world” and rejected claims of a lack of government funding for local councils.
“Nobody wants to see the kind of disruption and impact of strikes that many people are witnessing in Edinburgh right now,” she said.
Local residents have been asked to keep their rubbish inside rather than put it on the street. Waste and recycling centres are also shut.
Miles Briggs, a local government spokesman for the opposition Scottish Conservatives, said the rubbish piling up on our streets risked damaging the city’s reputation.
“These annual festivals are supposed to be a source of pride, not humiliation,” he said.