– in the Scottish Parliament at on 10 March 2021.

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Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the action that it is taking to tackle littering. (S5O-05094)

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

We are clear that litter is a blight on our landscape and that there is no excuse for it. Our national litter strategy is coming to the end of its five-year lifespan. We have been assessing progress, and we will shortly publish a report on it.

Later this month, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform will contribute to a litter summit, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the current situation, including the impact of Covid-19, and to look ahead to future priorities for tackling litter and improving our local environments. That will be the first in a series of opportunities to consider the next steps through working collaboratively with key stakeholders.

Photo of Neil Findlay Neil Findlay Labour

I am glad that the minister agrees that litter is a blight. In every town, city and country lane, we can see that litter levels have grown hugely since lockdown.

Is it not clear that councils are simply unable to cope with that under the current budget settlement and with year-on-year cuts to their budgets? Will the minister make the case for giving councils back the cash to deal with that blight on our communities?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Cleaning up litter costs public bodies £53 million a year—clearly, that is money that could be better spent on other services. As Neil Findlay said, local authorities are responsible for—and are best placed to do so—making decisions on prioritisation of local waste services, and responding to litter at local level.

Local councils have engaged through creating their own innovative responses. For example, Perth and Kinross Council has created a small fund to support local land owners to clean up fly-tipping.

Tackling littering and fly-tipping is a collective endeavour—they require a collective response. The Scottish Government is very engaged with local authorities and other partners on how we will continue to tackle those issues together.

It is important to emphasise that we all, as MSPs, have a role to play. I pay tribute to Neil Findlay’s public service. In his remaining weeks, he will be part of that collective effort to encourage people to stop littering and to move towards a Scotland in which we reduce littering significantly and achieve that together.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

Is it not true that part of the issue is the powers that local authorities have to deal with litter and fly-tipping? Can the minister give an update on whether the Scottish Government is considering making legislative changes that would allow local authorities greater powers to intervene?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

No legislative changes are pending in the immediate term. However, I am sure that the matter will, as we continue to evaluate our strategies, continue to be a priority for members who are returned in the next Parliament.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

Can the minister give any detail on the deposit return scheme, beyond his commitment to commission an independent gateway review? The scheme has already been delayed, as he will know, until July 2022.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

I refer members to the Government-initiated question S5W-35780 which was answered on Monday. That answer gives the latest update on the deposit return scheme.