Politics

‘Unacceptable!’ SNP ‘MUST take action over damaging leaks as Scotland ‘way behind’ England

Sturgeon 'wants more power!’ says MSP Craig Hoy

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A little over a month ago, Scotland was home to the COP26 summit. Ms Sturgeon used this as an opportunity to highlight Scotland’s dedication to ensuring the protection of the environment.

But new criticism accuses the SNP of allegedly not doing enough to keep the Government agency tasked with protecting the environment on track.

The SNP leader has been criticised for failing to properly respond to the problem of sewage leaks, with Scotland falling “way behind” the action carried out in England.

Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Climate Emergency Spokesperson, said the SNP must address the problem and announce measures to counter it before matters get worse.

He said: “The Environment Minister [Màiri McAllan] needs to tell Parliament what is being done to clean up this sewage leak mess and keep Scotland’s waterways pristine.”

This follows the finding earlier this year that sewage spilled directly into Scotland’s rivers, locks and seas at least 12,000 times in 2020.

The true figure is expected to be much higher, Scottish non-profit media organisation The Ferret claims.

The Ferret obtained data through a Freedom of Information request.

They were told that sewage was discharged in areas, including habitats of rare species and some used by swimmers.

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The Ferret claimed that Scottish Water is only required to monitor 101 of Scotland’s total of 3,641 “combined sewer overflows” locations.

BBC data also backed this up, noting Scottish Water is only required to monitor less than three percent of these CSOs for pollution.

In comparison, the English Government claims to have ‘Event Duration Monitors’ for 80 percent of its storm overflows, with the rest set to have them by the end of 2023.

Despite the severity of the problem, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) officials have been accused of caring first and foremost about their own reputation.

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Mr McArthur said: “Senior SEPA staff appear to have been hesitant to review Scottish Water’s operating licences in bulk in case it suggested the watchdog’s enforcement had not been strong enough…

“It was clear that the environment watchdog’s first concern wasn’t for the health of our streams, rivers and communities but for their own reputation.”

He also accused the SNP Government of being “up to its neck” in anti-climate-friendly “offences”.

Last month, The Ferret saw internal Scottish Government emails in which officials called spills “an eye-opener (not in a good way)”.

In a statement, SEPA acknowledged that “there is more to do”.

It said climate change added to the number of sewers at risk of overflowing.

And despite accusations of caring more about reputation than the environment, it insisted: “We’re committed to finding the most effective and sustainable solutions to combined sewer overflows.

“We’ll work with Scottish Government, Scottish Water, river trusts, councils and communities to take a new approach to managing rainfall, to reduce flood risk and to minimise sewer overflow spills and litter to further enhance our urban water environments.”

Mr McArthur spoke ahead of a statement from the Scottish Government to Holyrood on reports of thousands of sewage spills.

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

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